“Conscience Clause” Gone AMOK — Rape Victim Denied Morning After Pill By Prison Guard

We’ve watched the definition of “conscience clause” be expanded to include everyone from nurses and data entry workers at hospitals to bus drivers refusing to drop off patients at clinics. But now a prison guard refused to allow a rape victim to take the second dose of emergency contraception (which prevents fertilization) claiming it was “against her beliefs.” That’s a new one.

Via Addicting Info:

A Tampa woman whom we only know as R.W., was raped. She was treated by the rape crisis center, who gave her two emergency contraception pills, one to be taken immediately and one to be taken 12 hours later. When she reported the rape to the police, they uncovered an arrest warrant on R.W. for failure to pay restitution and failure to appear. After she was arrested, a Hillsborough County guard confiscated her second pill, claiming it was against her religious beliefs.

But this is exactly what happens when “conscience” is allowed to trump a woman’s rights to avoid pregnancy. R.W. is suing the sheriff’s office, and as well she should. This isn’t just about women denied access when jailed (Although that in itself is problematic — should a woman fear reporting a crime because she may be arrested? Not to mention the fact that women who are sexually assaulted while in jail may also be at the whim of a guard or someone in authorityin obtaining access to emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy).

No, this case also brings to light how those who are “in charge” when it comes to dispensing are able to inflict their own moral beliefs onto someone else. In states like Kansas, which seek to expand conscience clauses well beyond health workers, the putative “rights” if those who wield power are being allowed to trump those of the patient in need.

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  • jennifer-starr

    How dare that prison guard do that–I hope she sues them for everything they’re worth. 

  • crowepps

    “Women Have A Responsibility to Report Rapes To Protect Future Victims” (but if they do so they’re at risk of being arrested and locked up.)

  • queentut

    Disgusting. That prison guard should be arrested for grievous bodily harm or antisocial behaviour and jailed for several years; how on earth could any human being do something so evil? Even the rapist himself might not have wanted her to get pregnant!

    If the pill was to prevent fertyilisation then its not a life issue! I can’t believe this is not illegal! Scrap ‘conscience clauses’ – we don’t have them here (UK) so why does America need them?? I hope the prison guard has now been fired, though I doubt she has been arrested and charged because the conscience clause makes it not a criminal offence. This is just a novel way for prison guards to abuse, assault and bully prisoners with impunity. It’s illegal to beat them for no reason, but legal to get them pregnant so they are forced to have abortions or give birth a a rapists’ baby. I think it’d be better to just legalise beating them up!

     And I know the rape victim deserved to be arrested for the outstanding crime, but couldn’t they wait a little while before arresting her instead of locking her up in prison right away?? Such a minor crime that didn’t involve physical attack doesn’t require locking people up before the trial, why couldn’t she just be at home until the trial?

  • coralsea

    This shows how insane this “conscience clause” is.   I can see confiscating medication when someone is placed in a jail cell, in part to ensure that other inmates don’t steal them — but if you confiscate them, they should be placed in the possession of someone who would then ensure that the person receives the dose as a DOCTOR intended.  Would these same officers do this to people who are diabetic and must take insulin?  What about people with raging infections, who need antibiotics?  Last summer, I had the unfortunate experience of being bitten (badly) by a stray dog that was acting very strangely.  They never found the dog, and I had to take a course of rabies shots.  Those shots aren’t 100% effective against rabies (although I was fortunate that I didn’t get it — if the dog had been rabid), but the doctor who treated me insisted that I had to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that I take the shots at the intervals prescribed exactly to increase my chances of not getting this fatal virus if, in fact, the dog had been rabid.


    What would have happened if I had been incarcerated for some reason?  No rabies vaccine and no antibiotics? People are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty by a trial, which means that these trolls ought to make sure they aren’t withholding medical treatment from ANYONE.


    And as other commenters have noted, this woman really shouldn’t have been incarcerated — especially when she was reporting a rape.  As far as I am concerned, the guard should be charged with endangering the welfare of another person.


    I can just see some self-righteous jerks deciding, for example, that anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotic medications are unnecessary because “if they believed in God, they wouldn’t need them.”  NOBODY has the right to interfere with another person’s medical care — and if you are going to hold people in cells, you had better ensure that you have a mechanism in place to provide the people who are being held with the medications they are supposed to take and want to take.


    This is a disgusting case that needs national attention.

  • oak-cliff-townie

    After she was arrested, a Hillsborough County guard confiscated her second pill, claiming it was against her religious beliefs.

    “conscience clause”


    Is the Jailer applying the same standards in her own life ?



  • sugarmag

    There are many, many instances of people who are diabetics being denied insulin to the point that they go into diabetic shock, I’m sure some have died. Once you are in the system you are at the mercy of these idiots.  They don’t care if you’re sick.  They have a serious “Us vs. Them” attitude and automatically treat you like pond scum.  The assumption is if you’re there you belong there.  Doesn’t matter if you’re sick, doesn’t matter if a mistake has been made, doesn’t matter if you’re in there for something so petty as forgetting to pay a minor traffic ticket.  You will not be given anything they don’t feel like giving you.  You are at their mercy.  If you aren’t appropriately dressed for the environment (you’re in shorts and a tank top) and it’s cold you will not get a blanket.  If the only thing holding up your pants is a drawstring it will be cut off or removed. You can beg for toilet paper – you won’t get it. If you are sick and feel that you are going to vomit you will be told “hold it or you will be cleaning it up yourself”.  That goes for using the toilet as well. If you’re female and it’s that time of the month – forget about getting any feminine toiletries.  Even if you had tampons or whatever on you at time of arrest they will be taken from you and not returned.  Of course this isn’t supposed to happen.  But it happens all the time on a regular basis.  These people know they can get away with it because they HAVE been getting away with it for a long, long time.  They aren’t going to lose their job over mistreatments like this and they know it.  You would be amazed at the abuses that routinely go on.  Nothing is done to stop it.  We need serious reform and we need it immediately.  This is a disgraceful situation.  It’s shocking that this woman was treated this way, but not unusual.  I hope she sues the bastards and wins.  What would really be effective is the guard who did this to her being made responsible for a substantial part of the financial settlement.  As well as being fired and never allowed to be in a position of authority over anyone ever again.  I doubt it will happen, but it seems to me that if these jerks had to face the consequences of their actions you better believe they would start treating other people with respect.  Hit ’em in the pocketbook is usually the most effective way of waking neanderthals like this up.


  • jdm

    I have to disagree with your headline.  This isn’t an example of “Conscience Clause” Gone AMOK; it’s exactly what these laws are intended to do: allow petty people to foist their religious views on others to the detriment of those others’ health and wellbeing.

  • jennifer-starr

    Isn’t that essentially what all conscience clauses do?  While I can understand a doctor having the right to refuse to take part in an abortion procedure, I’ve never understood the point of these conscience clauses for pharmacists and others. 

  • doug-seubert

    There are a couple factual errors in this story. I went back to the original articles published in the Tampa Times. First, it was not a prison guard, but a medical employee authorized to dispense medications, who happened to have a conscience objection to emergency contraception. Second, the woman was not denied the second dose, it was delayed.


    It’s clear that conscience clauses are important and they should be included in laws where there may be an objection on religious, moral or personal grounds. The real issue here is that there must be policies in place as to how these clauses are applied. Working at a major clinic, we had to have policies in place because, under Wisconsin statutes, conscience objections are allowed in the prescribing and dispensing of emergency contraception. In the case in Florida, the problem is not with the medical supervisor at the county jail who delayed the second dose. The problem is that the county jail did not have a policy in place to deal with the situation. In this case, if only employee authorized to dispense medications has an objection of conscience, there needs to be someone else with medication-dispensing authority that does not have an objection called in. At least that is the law in Wisconsin. The major clinic system where I worked had to allow objections of conscience for doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, or anyone else who prescribed or dispensed medications. But, we also had to have a policy and a process in place so that patients had access to medications, including emergency contraception. That is why we had to identify each employee with an objection and have a list of alternatives for when that person was on call or in charge of prescribing or dispensing medications. By law, we could not turn anyone away. But, in the case of an emergency, for example, when the physician and/or pharmacist on call had an objection on file, another physician or pharmacist had to be made available to take any prescribing/dispensing in the case where there was an objection. It doesn’t appear, after reading primary sources, that the county jail had any such policy or process in place. If they had, another staff member authorized to dispense medication, who does not have a conscience objection to emergency contraception, would have been called in immediately to dispense the second dose. Because there was no policy, my understanding of this case is that the woman cannot sue the medical supervisor who delayed the second dose. However, I do believe the sheriff and the county itself can be sued for not having the needed policies in place. Now that assumes that Florida’s law is similar to Wisconsin’s, and I’d have to look that up.


    But I think we can all agree on two things: 1) conscience objections must be allowed, as they also protect rights; and 2) a policy and process must also be in place so that no one is denied or delayed emergency contraception (or any other medication or treatment prone to conscience objections), especially when this right is protected by law, as it is in Wisconsin.

  • jennifer-starr

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see where a prison guard or medical employee should have any say at all about medications prescribed by an actual doctor. She should’ve just dispensed it and kept her mouth shut–I know that sounds harsh, but that’s the way I feel. I just don’t see where her ‘conscience’ should factor into the equation at all. She’s not the one taking the medicine or prescribing it. The victim’s conscience should be the only one that matters. 

  • coralsea

    Hi Doug — your point about having someone else as a “fall back” to ensure that the person who is in some way offended by another person’s medical treatment was what I was getting at in my earlier post — and I am glad that Wisconsin has thought this through to ensure that in clinical situations, people aren’t deprived of medication.  Other states lag behind, which means that in some rural areas, if a woman is denied emergency contraception by the only pharmacy in town, she has to travel an hour of more to go to another pharmacy (if she has transportation — an assumption that no one who has ever worked with lower-income people would ever make).


    In this case, where the rape victim was in a custodial situation, she couldn’t just up and go elsewhere.  I’m glad that someone finally stepped in and “allowed” her to have her pill, but this is exactly the type of situation where a “conscience clause” really shouldn’t be allowed.  As you stated, in Wisconsin, mechanisms are in place to allow someone else to step in and provide the “objectionable” medication, and in many other states, the idea is that if a medical provider refuses out of “conscience,” the person can go elsewhere.


    In my opinion, the fact that this woman finally received her medication provides only partial mitigation.  Can you imagine what she went through, wondering if the first dose would be enough to prevent pregnancy?  I don’t think most of us would want to go through that.  I  know that, in the case of the rabies vaccine that I discussed in the previous post, I would have been totally freaked out (since you appear to work in the health care field, I assume you know the sort of death that rabies brings).


    Commenter Sugarmag describes unsettling abuses in custodial settings which, I have no doubt, occur on a disturbingly regular basis.  This is totally outrageous, especially in the case of local jails, where most people are detained after an arrest.  In our justice system WE ARE ASSUMED TO BE INNOCENT UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY.  Not that I think medical care should be withheld from “guilty” people (should you die after slipping into a diabetic coma because you stole something — I don’t think so), but since the police do screw up, should someone who is on the receiving end of a screw up face medical injury?


    As for conscience clauses, you state that you are sure that “we can all agree” that they serve a purpose and should be allowed.  Well, no.  I for one DO NOT AGREE.   If you are a medical professional, especially in an emergency care situation, you provide the treatment that the patient WANTS (as long as it doesn’t go against actual professional guidelines).   Otherwise, perhaps you should go into another profession.   As I noted in my post — contraception now, what next?  I have already twice had pharmacists who have earnestly told me that if I would just go to church with them and “find Jesus,” I wouldn’t need my anti-depressant prescription that I was attempting to fill.  NO.  NO.  NO.  What medication I take is between the prescribing doctor and me — not some stranger who, well-meaning or not (frankly, I don’t care), holds particular religious beliefs.  NO.


    We are currently experiencing a time when religious extremists are attempting to impose their beliefs on all of us — regardless of whether we agree with them or not.  They (and by them, I mean certain extreme Evangelical Christians, not all Christians [or the giant ants from “Them”) want to control what is taught in public schools and stocked in libraries, and they want to exert control over women’s bodies, particularly in regard to sex and reproduction.   These people would take us back to the Dark Ages if they could.   “Conscience Clauses” are simply another tool that those who practice a fear-based, coercion-based form of fundamentalism practice to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us (including other Christians). 


    So NO, I for one to don’t agree that conscience clauses have any place in the provision of emergency medicine — including the issuing of or otherwise making available emergency contraception. 



  • coralsea

    Jen — agree with you totally (and you said it in so many fewer words than me!)

  • colleen

    1) conscience objections must be allowed, as they also protect rights

    Why would we agree with such an absurd notion? There is no ‘right’ to force others to suffer and/or comply with your religious beliefs and there is no ‘conscience’ involved when you’re refusing to give a rape victim with her own emergency contraception. The woman who did this should be fired.



  • coralsea

    At the risk of causing a fuss, I don’t think that Doug really deserved “trolling” level votes.  No, I certainly didn’t agree his conclusion that conscience clauses were important to stop people’s religious beliefs from being trampled, but if he put forth a lot of other good information.  It is difficult to resolve differences of opinion if one person, who appears to be trying to engage in a conversation in good faith, is simply shut down.  I believe that the several comments made emphatically stating that the commenters didn’t agree with him were sufficient.   I gave him a 3 and then told him what I didn’t agree with.


    There was, however, another commenter on another article who simply stated that something or other was “sinful” because the Bible said so.  In her case I gave her a 1 because I have a personal dislike of people using scripture and believing that it is sufficient to make an argument.  In retrospect, I probably should have given her a 2 or possibly a 3 and told her why.


    I am still relatively new at commenting on this website, which I like very much.  If I am speaking out of turn–if, for example, failing to “shutdown” certain types of commenters (like that Man’s Rights jackass from a few weeks ago — he deserved a 1 for his attacking and patronizing tone as he “informed” us womenfolk) ends up serving as an invitation to more of them to show up and make abusive comments–please let me know.  I just personally believe that people who make an honest effort to communicate their thoughts–so long as their thoughts aren’t simply Rush Limbaugh, religious extremists, Rand Paul et. al., political loonies talking points–then it is more productive to address their comments rather than simply marking them as trolls.


    Really — please do let me know if I have violated this site’s etiquette or actions that it needs to keep out real trolls by making this suggestion.  If I have done so, I apologize.

  • jodi-jacobson

    “Troll Status” is decided by readers/commentors using the point system to rank a comment. The editors do not interfere with this except in circumstances where someone uses violent language, personal attacks, or hijacks a thread.  You can influence the ranking of any comment by using the point system on that comment.



  • jodi-jacobson

    “Troll Status” is decided by readers/commentors using the point system to rank a comment. The editors do not interfere with this except in circumstances where someone uses violent language, personal attacks, or hijacks a thread.  You can influence the ranking of any comment by using the point system on that comment.



  • crowepps

    I’m also willing to engage someone who wants to exchange views, but one of the things that triggers me to designate someone’s comment not worth reading is experience — have there been similar (or identical) comments posted before.  Someone who is merely parroting poorly thought out, bumper sticker slogan foolishness on anti-abortion websites tends to get short shrift, and so does someone repeating sexist tropes about ‘real women’ should ‘want’ to have children, women owe society/the infertile children, or religion is privileged to impose its peculiar customs on women.

  • coralsea

    Crowepps, definitely agree with your explanation — it is what I would (and have) used before.  Thanks for confirming.


    Jodi — also thanks.


    I hope I haven’t come across as stupid and/or sanctimonious.  Rock on!

  • crowepps

    It’s clear that conscience clauses are important and they should be included in laws where there may be an objection on religious, moral or personal grounds.

    I’d sure appreciate it if you’d explain what you mean by “personal grounds”.  Is that ‘I don’t think I should get fired for not doing the parts of my job I don’t like?’ or ‘I think helping people like that is a waste of my time?’

    While I can see the function of conscience clauses in the specific cases of abortion and end of life directives, where people who are adamently opposed to participating want the ‘right’ to have a job in the medical system, there is absolutely no justification for a conscience clause to allow “medical personnel” to withhold birth control medication from a rape victim because their religious beliefs include the bizarre idea that rape victims have an obligation to become pregnant as a result of their having been forced to have sex.

    “Medical personnel” who want to impose their own personal religious beliefs on other people violate the patient’s freedom of religion.  “Medical personnel” who aren’t aware that science has conclusively proven Plan B/emergency contraception are NOT abortificant aren’t competent and should get a different job.

  • crowepps

    I usually don’t even notice the ratings, since I routinely access the comments through the bottom of the front page by clicking ‘more comments’ and review all of them in the chronological posting of every single comment, where they all appear no matter how low their rating.

    The only negative result I can see of a low rating is that people have to deliberately click on the post to read it, and the positive result is that the comment strings aren’t cluttered up with pages and pages of repetitive spam/propaganda/lies.

  • h2ogirl

    No, we do not agree.  So-called conscience clauses have NO PLACE in modern medicine, period.  If you object to legal medical procedures being performed or legal prescribed medications being distributed then you need to find different employment.  

  • j-rae

    When I attended nursing school one of the front and center lessons was that I was too put aside my religious beliefs when providing care.

    The only belief system that matters is the patients.

    It was also made clear that anyone who found that they could not do this should find a different career.

    You may think that there is no harm in telling someone that they have to have someone else provide their care due to a “conscious clause”, but what you have done is to tell the patient that their beliefs are somehow “bad” and “distasteful” and their healthcare needs are shameful.



  • doug-seubert

    “personal grounds” is more of a legal catch-all term…. it was the actually language our lawyers suggested when we drafte our emergency contraception policy. not all conscience objections are based on religious beliefs. including “personal grounds” covers more. this language might actually be part of the state staute. i know we did have to include some language directly from the statute into our policy.


    i know it’s hard to think of conscience objections as protected rights. this is the crux of the pending law suit against obamacare that requires employers or their health insurance providers to cover the cost of contraception. many catholic hospitals and instiutions are self insured, so it presents a real conflict for them.


    you can hate religion and you can argue it has no place in our laws, but to get rid of it you’d have to get rid of the entire constitution.


    instead of arguing and name calling, there needs to be respect for all rights and a way to ensure that all rights are proteted. the policy we were required to implement at our clinic does just that.


    i hope you read where i agree that no one should be denied treatment. conscience objections should not be a block to treatment. but they also cannot just be tossed aside either.


    thanks to everyone who heard me out.


  • doug-seubert

    that is not always the case.

    the parents of a young girl here in wisconsin were prosecuted for not getting medical treatment for their daughter who had type 1 diabetes. the young girl died after they did not let doctors treat her. it casued quite a legal battle as you can imagine. but their objections, in this case, were based on their religious beliefs. there was no judgement on the patient’s beliefs here. it is a reversal of roles, where a parent is blocking the medical treatment of the patients. this is a much more complictaed issue: not only are their religious rights to protect, and parenting rights, there still are rights for the child and patient that need to be protected. personally i agreed with the goverment who took the parents to court. you might remember a similar case a few yeras back about parents of a young boy who refused to let him get treatment for lukemia. a court stepped in and ordered the child to get treatment against his and his parent’s wishes.

    its not always as black and white as we think it is.

  • doug-seubert

    thank you for the comments. i thought we were moving toward some common ground, but maybe not? anyway, before you all kill me (gulp!) let me just repeat in case you missed it: i agree 100% that every woman, including the woman at the heart of this case we are discussing, should have unblocked access to the care she needs. period. i hope i am okay with you all on that. i’m not hear to argue about the effectiveness of emergency contraception or place any judgement on it. i’m just saying what happened in this case should not have happened, and the state laws need to have that policy piece as a requirement as it does in our state. i’d be surprised if florida doesn’t have it. i bet they reuire hospitals, clinucs and pharmacies to have a policy on how they handle conscience objections. perhaps they overlooked the jail system? in any case, it was inexcusable and completely preventable.

  • doug-seubert

    sorry if i caused a stir. i didn’t think i was trolling. but i understand it’s typically what happens on many sites.


    i hope included enough of my background to show i have some experience on the topic, and i repsect the differences in opinion.


    thanks agin for engaing with me in the discussion. it was helpful to me as someone working in public health.



  • crowepps

    i know it’s hard to think of conscience objections as protected rights.

    It isn’t hard for me to think of conscience objections as protected rights at all, since I absolutely believe that no one should ever be forced to do something which they think is morally wrong.  Where I may differ from you is in whether it is reasonable for people who think something is morally wrong to deliberately CHOOSE to work in a profession where they object to integral parts of the services they must provide, and to insist that their conscience entitles them to shame, blame, expose or withhold services from patients.

    There is a huge difference between a Catholic pharmacist at WalMart who steps back and let’s the other pharmacist on duty handle all the birth control prescriptions, with the customer not even aware that such a substitution happened, and a Catholic pharmacist who snatches the prescription from a customer’s hand, lectures her on how selfish it is for her to refuse the ‘gift’ of a possible pregnancy by a rapist, and refuses to give it back so she can get it filled somewhere else because that would be ‘enabling her in a rejection of God’s plan’.

    Personally, I have had personal experience with being employed in positions which expected to do something which I thought was morally wrong, and since the ‘something’ was entirely legal, I QUIT THE JOB and went and did something else.

  • colleen


    you can hate religion and you can argue it has no place in our laws, but to get rid of it you’d have to get rid of the entire constitution.


    You’re very confused. Many religions think that the poor should have access to healthcare. MOST religions believe that women have every right to say when and how often they gestate children. The Catholic church’s insane and dehumanizing doctrines are those of a minority.  Y’all have no right to inflict your beliefs on us and it is precisely that which you are trying to justify.



  • crowepps

    Doug — I hesitate to mention this, since I have a daughter who is dyslexic and so am very aware that there are disabilities that interferes with the ability to communicate in writing, but the lack of capital letters in your posts and the extremely poor spelling induced in me a certain level of scepticism regarding the background you supplied.

    I apologize if you do have a disability, I am sincerely not meaning to be disrespectful, but just pointing out something which influences others impression. I will add I have a lot of past experience at this site in particular with people who purport they “work in medicine” or “work in public health” turning out to be an untrained volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, the receptionist at a medical clinic, or the sales clerk at a pharmacy.

  • coralsea

    Doug — I am not a Constitutional scholar or an attorney, but I’m pretty sure that we don’t have to “get rid of the constitution” to keep (or attempt to keep) religion out of laws.  THe only thing the Constitution says about religion is in the First Amendment having to do with how the government is not allowed to establish a religion (the Establishment Clause).


    Also — is this “personal grounds” thing meant to apply only to religion (or to “established,” well-recognized religions)?  Because with the way things are going in our country just now in regard to increasingly extremist views being openly aired, could “personal grounds” extend to refusing to treat people who have a skin color, ethnicity, immigration status, or sexual preference someone doesn’t like because they “personally” believe fervently that African-Americans or “illegal” immigrants don’t belong in our country? (Please note: I am NOT accusing you of this — from your writings, I cannot imagine that you would do such a thing).  Or is the “personal” preference thing tied to a particular treatment?  I believe that in my initial response to you that I commented on nasty encounters with pharmacists when I have attempted to fill anti-depressants.  The reasoning they gave me was that all I needed to do was give myself over the Jesus.


    I don’t really like “slippery slope” arguments (re: “If gay people are allowed to marry, then people will be marrying dogs next) because they often devolve into silliness.  But frankly, if you decide that you want to practice medicine, particularly as a pharmacist who is filling the public’s presciptions or working in emergency care, why should it be okay to refuse treatment tied to the extremely narrow area of women’s reproductive health?  In my view, this really is forcing religious views on those who don’t agree with them.  Also — I live in a very religious area (a very well known Christian college is located in this town, and, as one would expect, many devote fundamentalist Christians live here, too).  There are plenty of medical practices in this area that are staffed by and cater to Christians, and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to hand out emergency contraception if they were against it.  (There is the pesky issue of institutions, like many colleges and hospitals that are partially funded with government money.  Taking that money does require that they play by certain rules.)


    I don’t think that people who are supportive of reproductive rights automatically “hate” religion.  I do think that a lot of people are disgusted with the Catholic Church in regard to their attitude toward and treatment of women, however, and so the rhetoric can get heated at times.


    Finally, it is my understanding that organizations that are purely religious (church parishes and “closely held” church organizations, but not universities which, for example, accept government money and do not otherwise require their employees to adhere to their religious practices) already are exempt from having to pay for/provide contraceptives (although oddly, at least in the case of the Catholic Church, Viagra and other ED drugs are considered okay because they are treating a “medical condition).  As such, it seems to me that the Obama Administration has already bent over backwards not to offend the Catholic Church.  But if places like Notre Dame and Georgetown University hire non-Catholic staff, admit non-Catholic students, and not only accept but seek out Federal research grants (and accept students who receive Pell Grants), then I don’t think the Bishops should be stamping their feet and exerting control over this one issue (especially since they are all men).


    Thanks for hearing ME out.  And I did appreciate your post — even if I didn’t agree with it.

  • coralsea

    Doug — arrggghhh!  Cases of children not receiving life-saving medical treatment (or having to have the courts intervene to ensure that they receive it) IS black and white!  I believe, from what you wrote, that you think so yourself.  Certainly, parents cannot be allowed to knowingly refuse treatment for their kids in life or death situations!    The kids can’t get treatment for themselves, and their lives are literally in the hands of their parents.


    I went through this in my family.  When she was about 15 or 16, my sister, who suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome (although I don’t think they knew that at the time — it was the early 1970s), was in horrendous, howling pain and was literally bleeding to death (I don’t know the full mechanics of polycystic ovarian syndrome, but she would only get her period once or twice a year — and when she did it was a bad one).  This was at the time when my parents were taking a turn into extreme fundamental Christianity (Bill Gothard and all of that).  They were praying over her and had people from their prayer group praying over her while my little brother and I hid in his bedroom.  Fortunately, one of the prayer group members realized how much blood there was and called their pastor, who came over.  He literally had to threaten my parents with the cops to convince them to take her to the emergency room.   I won’t go into my parents’ beliefs here, but they were sufficiently mad at their pastor so they quit that church and joined one that was more extreme, despite the fact that they KNEW my sister almost died.  (Also — although they were told that putting my sister on birth control pills would ease her symptoms, they refused to allow it because it was “wrong.”  This was, in my opinion, dumb, but since it wasn’t life threatening and she was a minor, it was their call to make.) 


    My parents aren’t monsters.  They are very religious, and they have been seeking to understand how best to live their lives in a spiritual way.  Shockingly enough, my sister (you know — the one who almost died)? has also had a bunch of issues over whether to let her kids get medical treatment.  (A lot of people who have polycystic ovarian syndrome are unable to have kids, but after 15 years of trying, something apparently worked itself out and she popped out four of them).  Most recently, one of the kids was packed off to Africa to be a nanny for some missionaries’ children.  She didn’t take any anti-malarial medications because “God would protect her.”  Guess what — she got malaria.  But since she was 18 — oh well (although I do believe that she might have decided differently if she hadn’t been so indoctrinated).  So now she has a condition that may well haunt her the rest of her life.


    Although I don’t agree with it, it parents want to withhold immunizations or teach their kids “out there” beliefs (“out there” to me — but I’m sure that some of my beliefs are “out there” for other people), I don’t think the government should interfere.  This is a “gray” area that affects families that are both religious and non-religious, and I’m sure that there will always be some bickering about parents’ rights versus the perceived public interest of the child.  Look at the weird case of “Sun Tan Mom” taking her little daughter to tanning salons!  Hopefully, the kids survive into adulthood and can make their own decisions regarding their health and health treatment then. 

  • coralsea

    Colleen — you are right on with the fact that most religions (or ones I know of — not a theologian) believe in the rights of the poor to receive health care and other sustenance.  I read an article a few months ago about how the “flavor” of evangelical Christianity in Great Britain is very different that here, with the evangelical Brits among those at the forefront in the fight to achieve social justice in regard to a number of issues.  America has always had a number of homegrown religious groups and takes on religious thought.  Somehow, social justice issues are not only not prominent among some major evangelical groups, they are viewed as “Communism.” (Once again, I add the qualification that there are a lot of Christians and Christian churches that are indeed active in social justice issues, including healthcare and reproductive health, in this country).  The Catholic Church remains strangely stuck in the dark ages over these things (and women’s rights).  But who knows — they finally said Galelio (sorry for bad spelling) was not a heretic and they accept evolution, so perhaps in a few hundred years, they will think women have the right to control their own bodies.

  • j-rae

    A medical professional chooses to take the training to be a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They are given the information about appropriate treatment of patients. They chose to provide needed care. They are instructed HEAVILY on culture/religion sensitivity and that it is inappropriate to use their culture or religion as a measuring stick to judge a patient. 

    The cases you are talking about involve children and parents. The parents choices either lead to death or would lead to death. (I do remember the refusal to treat the cancer very well) The parents choices were not consistent with protecting the health of their children. 

    In the first case the parents decision lead to death and the court system took over. It had nothing to do with medical professionals.

    In the second case it was reported as child neglect as the law requires, and the court system took over and ordered the treatment, not the medical professionals.

    Also, the first case was about religion. The second case was not. It was about the parents preference to treat the cancer with alternative treatments. (just ask Steve Jobs how that works out)


  • doug-seubert


    Note taken, croweps. Sorry about the typos. That happens often when I don’t type using a full-size keyboard. I’ve ended up sending some very bizarre text messages that way! And I just was reading up on how all this texting and informal writing is affecting writing quality and grammar. High school and college students are actually handing in papers with texting shorthand in them. lmao.




    Honestly, I really didn’t detect a lot of hostility towards me, and I was hoping this was a site that allowed different opinions. I actually stumbled on here by chance, as I clicked on a link to this article from a Facebook post. I probably won’t post here again (some of you will be happy!) unless by chance I run across another link that sparks my attention. I don’t really put a lot of stock in blogs that repost information from other blogs (this article came from “Addicting Info”) which is another blog. I was legitimately interested in the case, but wanted to read primary sources (newspaper articles, court documents, etc.). Just in the few articles I found in the Tampa Times, I discovered those two factual errors in the blog post. This is perhaps something I should take up with the author of this particular post, Robin Marty. If this site describes itself as offering “fact-based news, analysis and commentary,” they should be factual in their posts.




    Again, sorry I stirred the pot. I didn’t mean to interrupt your discussion of totally agreeing with one another. I’m sorry I tried to discuss “conscience clauses” with an audience that isn’t really interested in a discussion.




    But thanks again to those who did engage in some discussion and debate. I am sincere when I say it was helpful to me.




    So long.


  • doug-seubert

    OK, now that is unrealistic. The Catholic Church has been around for a couple thousands years, and they are not the only religion who use conscience clauses. I see all the work our state did to make sure all women have access to emergency contraception, and making sure at the same time religous rights (yes, the constitution!) are protected as well. It sounds like many of you want to throw out all religion and take that part of the constitution out, too.


    Just sitting here amongst yourselves, complaining and ranting that religion has no rights isn’t going to help someone like the woman in this story. The Catholic Church and other religions aren’t going away, the Constitution is not going to be scrapped. So what other solutions are there?


    I thought I offered a good example of how it can be done. It works here in our state and our health system. But it is still not good enough for you. You won’t bring change if you can’t seek common ground. That’s a big problem in politics and in society in general.



  • doug-seubert

    The “personal grounds” terminology was meant to cover conscience objections that are not religious. I think the term was as I wrote it before: religious, moral, or personal grounds. Does that leave it open to interpretation? Yes, but there are limits.


    Maybe one thing I didn’t make real clear in my original post is that it is a law in Wisconsin that emergency contraception must be administered when requested. There is no way around that period. Hospitals, clinics, public health departments, pharmacies (and anywhere else a woman might seek care) has to provide the treatment. Conscience objections are allowed, but it cannot block the administration of treatment. That is why we, as a large health services provider, have to have strict policies on this. It needs to be seamless. There is always someone else available to administer care if an objection arises. The objection is only applied to this specific treatment under the state law and the required policies that guide implementation of the law. So you cannot object based on the person requesting (color of skin, for example).  It only applies to emergency contraception. This is the only law like this in Wisconsin, and the only treatment where we need to have this type of policy to set up a process for including objections.

    And the objections MUST BE on file. No one can just make up their mind case by case, or one day say I suddenly realized i have an objection. It is a form that is completed and on file. Most of the time either the ER nurses or those on the 24 hotline have the list. So when these types of ases come in that need emergency contraception, they contact a prescriber who is not on the objection list. We don’t waste time with this. The patient would never even know, actually. It’s just done and taken care of immediately.


    And that was the problem with the county jail. It is criminal that they did not have the policies in place to make sure the necessary care was not delayed or denied.


    I hope this helps explain a little more about the process we went through to make this work in our health system.

  • doug-seubert

    Immunizations is another good example.

    I really do not know what the specific rights are regarding parents who can decide to withold treatment for their children, or if they vary state to state. And I know this is not the same thing as a conscience objection to prescribing or administering birth control. It’s more of the reverse. But it often does involve objections based on religion.

    I know the same issues arise at the end of life, especially with living wills and medical power of attorney. Sometimes people have to make tough choices. And sometimes it seems that the law only protects certain rights. The Terri Schiavo case is a good example of that. 

    Thanks for sharing your story. It gave me much to think about.

  • coralsea

    Doug — I appreciate your willingness to explain your positions and I genuinely find the information you shared regarding Wisconsin to be very interesting.  However, I return to the question of why contraception–and emergency contraception–have been singled out by religious people?  I view that as a real infringement on the rights of women to have control over their bodies — and I believe that most of the other commenters think so, too.


    Somehow, this concept has been launched that religious rights are trampled when a woman’s legal rights to receive perfectly legal medication are withheld.  This is a specious argument as far as I am concerned and goes back to “your rights end at the tip of my nose.”


    From reading your further arguments, I don’t think you get that.  But consider this: if the religious are so embued with their faith that they HAVE to win in regard to this particular issue (which, again, is intimately tied to women’s ultimate control over their bodies), then why do they stand by and do so little about the way our social, political, and economic systems that crush so many people and, in the case of limited availability to healthcare (re: no insurance and no ability to get care for chronic conditions) lead to the suffering and premature deaths of so many people — including children. 


    I suspect that religious people who are hot and bothered about the contraception/emergency contraception thing attack and attempt to control women for the same reason that PETA members throw blood on women who wear fur coats, but not on bikers who are wearing leather jackets: they think they have a much greater chance of bullying women than bullying men (which might result in a serious beating).


    “Common ground” doesn’t mean that we have to agree with specious arguments to deprive women of controlling their bodies.  And I don’t believe religion should trump the rule of law.  This isn’t an anti-religious sentiment, it’s a sentiment that in this country, and with our Constitution (remember the Establishment Clause), when writing and enforcing laws the government is not to favor or advocate one group’s religious beliefs over another.


    So sorry, I can respect your willingness to engage, but this does not mean that I have to agree with your beliefs.  And if you thought that the readers and commenters here would HAVE to accept your beliefs in order to achieve “Common ground,” well, that is simply petulant bullying with a velvet glove.