Legislating Morality: How House Conservatives Endanger Lives by “Protecting” The Unborn

House conservatives have recently revived the debate over government sponsored abortions, specifically over the extent to which our government wishes to indirectly fund the procedure. Their efforts have largely been centered around the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), which was introduced in the House by Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA) on January 19th of this year.

Currently, federal law mandates that federal funds cannot be used for abortion services, and plans that do receive federal funds must keep that money separate from anything to do with abortions. The Protect Life Act would go one step further in discouraging abortion by prohibiting federal funds from being used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that happens to include coverage of abortion services.  The result of this bill would be the effective elimination of comprehensive insurance coverage from programs such as Medicaid, which assists low-income women. Forcing poor women to choose between vital government health services and birthing a child is a monstrous and inhumane act that tarnishes our national heritage of humanitarianism and enlightened thinking.

This theme of blatant gender and class discrimination is repeated throughout the bill, which also has a provision that would allow hospitals to refuse to provide life-saving abortion care for women. This provision is especially important, as existing federal law requires hospitals to provide appropriate medical care to a patient facing an emergency, including medically necessary abortions. Because of this bill, hospitals would be allowed to turn away a pregnant woman experiencing a life-threatening complication without further regard for her health or well-being.

At what point did protecting the potential life of a fetus become more important than sustaining the life of a living, breathing mother? In addition, what precedent is our government setting by allowing an exception to the law that mandates treatment in life-threatening situations? If the basis for the rejection of emergency health services is that certain procedures violate hospital staffs’ religious beliefs, what would prevent that same staff from refusing treatment to a morally “deviant” person of the LGBTQ or nontheistic communities? If treating an atheist or a homosexual goes against a doctor’s religious beliefs, would he be allowed to refuse emergency care in a similar manner to women seeking an abortion for medicinal reasons?

If this bill is passed I see no regulation that would prevent such discrimination from occurring, as the doctor would no longer be under a legal obligation to treat all patients who are in a life-threatening situation. Such a precedent is cause for great concern, as it will actively affect the standard of care that is given to those who are deemed immoral by society.

Our government has a duty to keep its citizens safe, and refusing to pay for necessary health care in addition to removing the legal obligation of hospitals to treat all patients who are in a life-threatening condition is a direct violation of that duty. Our elected representatives must remember to separate their religious morality from their public duty, especially in cases when the former conflicts with the latter.

The American Humanist Association supports the right of women to make their own decisions regarding their own body, and opposes any government intervention that would remove that autonomy or threaten the life of a patient. We believe, like most doctors, that all patients should be given lifesaving operations regardless of the individual’s race, religion, political affiliation, or past actions. Anything less would be inhumane.