In Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Jonas is a young boy who realizes that his father intends to kill his younger brother. Jonas makes this realization even as his father seems oblivious to the results of his own actions.
Lowry paints an “ideal” society where drugs eliminate sexual desires and the social order arranges marriages and provides children to selected parents. The society chooses everyone’s family, everyone’s vocation, and instills everyone’s socially acceptable thoughts into their minds. Almost everyone’s.
The society chooses one person in every generation to receive the truth–to carry it–but never to divulge it. For his generation, that chosen person is Jonah.
But the society had failed to obliterate Jonah’s conscience. Some current societies are trying to do the same thing in a very significant way.
Last year, a Canadian court ruled that a patient’s desire to be euthaniized (a medical suicide) “trumps a doctor’s conscientious objection.”
Wesley J. Smith provides background to the case:
“In 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada conjured a right to lethal-injection euthanasia for anyone with a medically diagnosable condition that causes irremediable suffering—as defined by the patient. No matter if palliative interventions could significantly reduce painful symptoms, if the patient would rather die, it’s the patient’s right to be killed. Parliament then kowtowed to the court and legalized euthanasia across Canada. Since each province administers the country’s socialized single-payer health-care system within its bounds, each provincial parliament also passed laws to accommodate euthanasia’s legalization.”
Canada isn’t alone in requiring medical personnel to violate their consciences. Victoria, Australia, requires physicians to perform abortions when requested–or to find someone for the patient who will.
What Canada and Australia have become, America may soon also be. Sam Sawyer, SJ, in response to New York’s recently enacted abortion law:
“The R.H.A. [Reproductive Health Act] does not contain any explicit provision requiring anyone to perform or provide abortions, but neither does it explicitly provide any exemption for conscientious objection by health care professionals regarding abortion.”
So this issue is one that remains for the legislature and/or courts to determine.
The radical nature of New York’s law–removing the requirement that doctor’s perform abortions rather than other medical personnel–and removing all protections from children who survive abortion and are born alive–does not bode well for conscientious objection against taking a life.
In the meantime, because abortion can now occur via prescription medication–because assisted suicide often happens via a lethal prescription–and because some contraceptives act as an abortifacient after conception (they kill embryos instead of preventing them–pharmacists are now at risk of violating their consciences too.
Only six states in the US provide a conscience clause, not requiring the pharmacist to either fill the prescription or help the patient receive the requested service through another outlet.
So it was an answer to prayer last Thursday–the National Day of Prayer–when President Trump announced new federal protections for an array of medical providers:
“We finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities.”
As with other such rules, this one is subject to change in the winds of any election.
But for those who support life in the medical field–and those who wish to in the future–the news is only good.
Let’s keep working for life to make this change one that lasts for generations. Otherwise, we risk becoming like the people of Lowry’s The Giver–having our consciences obliterated.
Because as James Madison noted, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”