Thursday, 9 October 2008

Religion: Warping rational thought for millenia

This particularly execrable piece of news came to my attention courtesy of, and it has been stewing since Monday as I wondered if I had the energy to say anything about it.

But dammit, it pisses me off far too much to pass up.

Abortion bill's rights 'breach' (The Age) (Take a few moments to work through the grammatical structure of that headline. I'm not going anywhere).

It opens thisly:

"THE Catholic lobby has escalated the pressure on Victoria's lawmakers by claiming the bill that proposes to decriminalise abortion is in breach of the State Government's charter of human rights."

Now, you could be forgiven for assuming that they are claiming that it breaches the human rights of the unborn embryo.

Uh, no. Nothing so selfless, I'm afraid.

They are claiming that it breaches the human rights of

There is a clause in the bill which requires doctors who have a conscientious objection to performing abortions, to refer pregnant patients to doctors who are fine with that.

Now, this to me is entirely sensible, and reinforces the right to self-determination and informed decision making of the patient, while neatly stepping around forcing doctors to do something they object to.

I will, for the moment, give the doctors a free pass on the question of whether or not they should be allowed to object to performing standard medical procedures and still be allowed to practice as doctors. We'll waive that objection, and move on.

Because the Catholic lobby believes that requiring a doctor to make the entirely sensible and professional decision to refer a patient on if they are unable to make a medical decision in the face of personal issues, is depriving them of their right to religion, conscience and opinion.

In case you haven't worked out by now, I don't agree, and my opinion on abortion is entirely irrelevant. Let's examine that statement in detail:

First of all, it claims that religion requires doctors to enforce their own standards of behaviour and morality upon other people, regardless of good medical advice. Now, this is hardly surprising, although it's a bit surprising to hear them actually admit to it, but I put it to you that this behaviour is depriving the
patient of their right to opinion, conscience and self-determination. Resolve that conflict, you bigotted fucks.

Secondly, their claim is that forcing a doctor to refer a patient to a doctor who will perform a treatment that they find morally objectional is depriving them of their right to conscience. No, it doesn't, it deprives them of their right to enforce their conscience upon other people. It says nothing about their right to
hold that conscience. If you can't practice medicine without letting your stone-age beliefs in a giant invisible sky-fairy get in the way: Suffer.

Thirdly and finally, they are claiming that forcing a doctor, etc., is depriving them of their right to an opinion. I am gobsmacked by the thought that they may actually be serious about that claim. I can barely even begin to imagine the chain of reasoning which lead up to that claim. I sincerely doubt that there is anything in that bill saying "You can't say 'I don't agree with abortion, so I'm going to have to ask you to see another doctor' ". Which would satifsy their right to
express the opinion which they hold. You can even hold an opinion and remain absolutely quiet about it. Forcing you to act in a way which is mildly contrary to it, instead of flagrantly contrary to it, does not impact upon your right to hold it, and if legal advice is contrary, I have even less opinion for legal common sense than I already do.

In fact, this bears sickening premonition-of-doom resemblances to pharmacists in the US who refuse to dispense contraceptive pills, and islamic medical students in the UK who refuse to touch female patients.

In both cases, as several writers with more experience in the field than I pointed out at the times, these behaviours prevent the medical professionals involved from
doing their jobs. You cannot refuse to dispense a legal prescription on religious grounds and still call yourself a pharmacist. You cannot refuse to tough 51% percent of your patients and even be a doctor.

Furthermore, Catholic Health Australia's spokesman has this to say:

""We hope the upper house does not put Catholic hospitals in the position whereby we will be forced by law to operate in contradiction to our code of ethical standards," he said."

Fuck off. They're not your
ethical standards, they're your moral standards, and morality is not something that has been settled by long and careful debate between professional peers. It's something handed down to you from a pulpit by someone who had to go to a college to get indoctrinated into having their capacity for rational and logical thought warped, so that they can accept the spoutings of an anachronistic institution in Rome which holds sacred a book which has, over the centuries, had most of the good bits excised and core points of current dogma conveniently added.

It's just not good enough.

But heark, there is light in the tunnel, and this time it's not an oncoming dragon:

"Some doctors at Catholic hospitals have told
The Age they supported the clause because it was needed to protect women from fanatics."

Cheer to the hills! The actual medical professionals, instead of just the league of old, biggoted, bitter men in skirts, shows some sense!

Even better:

""The clause is there to stop the random fanatic sabotaging a woman's access to abortion," he said. "Most doctors are decent and honourable, and work around (a conscientious objection) to find a way that patients' needs are met. But some allow their consciences to trample over the rights of women, and it can lead to horrible outcomes.""

Well yes, exactly!

And, much further on (bad way to construct the article, in my pre-professional opinion), this gem:

"Health Minister Daniel Andrews said "effective referral" was medical best practice, as determined by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission."

yes, it is. If you are unnable to perform a needed or requested service that is legal and does not violate other medical best practices, then refer on. Fundamental rule in psychology, medicine, you name it.

There is a large section of the community which is still trying to act as though the Enlightenment never happened, and "secular" is a concept that doesn't exist.

Can't we just have them declared a dangerous sect, and be done with it?

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