Religion-based job protection jeopardizes family healthcare

In Wisconsin, approximately one-third of all healthcare organizations are religiously affiliated, and many workers sign a contract promising to follow the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services. A July letter from the bishops to members of Congress eagerly embraced proposed Health and Human Services Department regulations that would give civil rights protections to healthcare workers who refuse to perform duties contrary to their moral convictions. The comment period on the proposed regulations ends this Thursday.

The proposed regulations have set off a battle between anti-birth control activists and defenders of reproductive rights. Family planning service providers, like me, may be forced to hire people who have moral objections to contraception, and we would be unable to discipline employees who refuse to provide birth control or other services central to our mission.

These regulations would undoubtedly make family planning services less available — but they would also make most religious restrictions in employment contracts unenforceable. It seems the bishops have neglected the fact that many workers in Catholic hospitals and clinics have moral convictions supporting contraceptive care, reproductive rights and other healthcare the church might not sanction.

For example, clinic employees might refuse to distribute information they believe is inaccurate, incomplete or misleading. They might hold a moral conviction that abstinence-only materials deny a patient’s right to informed consent. They might believe that condoms, correctly and consistently used, are a reliable means to prevent unintended pregnancies, and sexually transmitted infections — including HIV transmission to unborn babies.

Catholic hospital employees might feel, as a matter of conscience, that to deny information about emergency contraception to a victim of rape is morally wrong or that providing pregnancy options information to a high-risk patient without discussion of termination as well as adoption is willful neglect.

Many health professionals in sectarian medical-teaching institutions believe that physicians must be trained in modern contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and how to perform emergency abortions.

Although these regulations would be cumbersome and would limit access to healthcare, the consequences of zealotry would not be limited to family planning clinics. I am no biblical scholar, but it may be time for the bishops to reflect on the admonition to “remove the beam from your own eye so you can see more clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s.”

Wausau, Wis.

Make foreigners pay, or just let chips fall

From Len Francis Monahan

It’s been projected that American taxpayers will have to pay $1.5 trillion (probably more) for this bailout of investment banks. And, we are being told that, even though we’ll be bailing out some foreign banks, Americans are indifferent to this. Our “leaders” tell us that we have to do this to protect the global financial system.

My question is, if it’s so important to prop up the global system, why isn’t the world paying for it? Where is Russia? China? Europe? Why must the entire burden fall on the American taxpayers to pay for the bad investments of foreign banks?

As long as foreign countries maintain military budgets, they should pay for their own failures and not be allowed to pass on this heavy burden to future generations of Americans.

If you, as an individual were to lose everything in the stock market, our government, your stockbrokers and the calloused investment banks would tell you, “That’s the way the ball bounces. You knew the risks when you went into the market. Buck up. Quit whining.”

This dialogue happens every day. So, as far as I’m concerned, we should be saying the exact same things to these investment banks. Let them liquidate their assets and let the chips fall where they should before so hurriedly jumping in to clean up their mess.

Oakhurst, Calif.