Priests for Life - Chirch Teaching
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES
The Catechism

From the Pope
Encyclicals
Letters, Addresses,
and Homilies


From the Vatican

From Individual Bishops

From the
US Bishops’ Conference


From Other Sources Associated with
the Magisterium

OTHER SECTIONS
America Will Not Reject Abortion Until America
Sees Abortion


Prayer Campaign

Join our Facebook Cause
"Pray to End Abortion"


Take Action

Social Networking

Rachel's Vineyard,
A Ministry of Priests For Life


Silent No More Awareness Campaign, A Project
of Priests For Life

Clergy Resources
SIGN UP FOR EMAIL


 

We must protect rights of those who see abortion clearly

By Bishop Robert Vasa
Bishop of Baker, Oregon

Published in the Catholic Sentinel, Portland, OR

June 4, 2009

BEND — Last week I mentioned a "conscience protection rule" that is presently in force for the Department of Health and Human Services. This rule ensures that health care workers and health care institutions are not coerced into offering or participating in medical procedures, such as abortion, sterilization, or contraception, which would be contrary to their religious beliefs. In passing, I mentioned that I believed that many American Catholics do not seem to understand why the Church not only opposes the choosing of some of these medical procedures for its members but also opposes providing them for those who see nothing wrong with them. There seems to be a belief that these things are not wrong in themselves but only wrong for those whose personal belief system recognizes them as wrong.

This is a bit like thinking that smoking is bad for the health of the members of the American Cancer Society but not at all bad for those who do not believe in a smoking-cancer link. Those who believe in this link and who choose not to smoke should not be subjected to second-hand smoke and should not be forced to sell cigarettes to those who may choose to smoke. Thus a convenience store owner who chooses not to sell tobacco products should have this liberty respected. This may not be very pleasing to smokers who are in need of a nicotine fix, but I think we can recognize the rights involved. A smoker has a legal right to smoke, provided the age and time and place permit him to do so. This legal right makes no change to the moral or health risks involved. This right does not imply a duty on the part of others to accept, accommodate or support the habit. Recall the old adage: Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of a neighbor’s nose. Both the man with the arm he desires to swing and the neighbor who impedes the swinging have noses. Certainly, in civil law, an individual’s passion to end all smoking does not give him the legal right to destroy the tobacco of another. This would be swinging one’s arms beyond the point of the smoker’s nose. A smoker has no right, as far as I know, to impose a duty on others to provide him with the tobacco product he desires. This would be swinging one’s arms beyond the point of the American Cancer Society member’s nose. Abortion is the swinging of oneís arm into the face of a pre-born child.

A smoker may or may not know of or believe in the smoking-cancer link. This is of no consequence. The American Cancer Society member firmly believes that such a link exists and that belief, whether accepted by the smoker or not, needs to be fully respected.

There is a significant group of Americans who passionately believe that abortion not only kills an innocent human being but also involves a severe trauma for the woman and may be linked to breast cancer. Abortion supporters may or may not know of or believe in the abortion-child death link. This is of no consequence. They may or may not know of or believe in the abortion-post traumatic stress link. This is of no consequence. They may or may not know of or believe in the abortion-breast cancer link. This is of no consequence. Many pro-life Americans firmly believe that such links exist and that belief, whether accepted by the pro-abortion crowd or not, needs to be fully respected.

There is a significant number of Catholics who accept the teaching of the Church, for sound dogmatic, philosophical and theological reasons, that artificial contraception is an offense to their Creator and bad for marriage. Contraception supporters may or may not know of or believe in the contraceptionCreator offense link. This is of no consequence. Contraception supporters may or may not know of or believe in the contraception-relationship destruction link. This is of no consequence. Many pro-family Americans firmly believe that such links exist and that belief, whether accepted by the pro-contraception crowd or not, needs to be fully respected.
Hippocrates, to whom the Hippocratic Oath is attributed, is also credited with originating the phrase, Primum non nocere, though he would have written it in Greek. In his Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. XI, we find: “As to diseases, make a habit of two things ­— to help, or at least to do no harm.” This is the meaning of Primum non nocere, first, do no harm. Everyone, whether a physician or not, has a duty to avoid doing that which they know or believe to be bad, evil, wrong, harmful or offensive to God. Certainly, we do not always avoid sin but we would acknowledge our duty to do so. First, do no harm. This is a fundamental ethic that cannot and should not be summarily dismissed. This is an ethic close to the Gospel. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

At the present time the Department of Health and Human Services does have a conscience protection rule but this should not be treated as some sort of privilege which they extend to people of faith, out of a kind of benevolence. It is a right. It is an exercise of religious liberty. There may even be a tendency to be “grateful” that such a conscience protection rule exists. Our reaction to the threat that this liberty and right could be taken away ought not to be, “Oh, please kind sir, may we not have this right just a little longer,” but rather an outraged, “How dare you threaten to trample on our religious liberties!”

Any government that threatens to attack this fundamental ethic by threatening to coerce those who have pledged “to do no harm” to actually do the harm they have committed themselves not to do needs to be opposed.

We pray that the protections presently in place stay in place, but we need to be realistic about the fact that there is a pro-abortion, pro-contraception, pro-euthanasia agenda driving the threat to strip this liberty from the arena of health care. Then the new motto for health care will no longer be “First, do not harm” but rather the chilling, “First, do whatever the government tells you.”

History tells us that this is not a desirable direction.


 

More from our Bishops

 

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org