Conscience Over Health Care?
Why are only health care workers deemed by legislators to have a "right of conscience" ["Health Workers' Choice Debated," front page, Jan. 30]? For perspective, legislators might want to consider the implications of extending such protection to employees in other arenas. For example:
· Should a vegetarian waiter be free to refuse to relay orders for meat dishes to the kitchen?
· Should a ticket seller at the movies be free to refuse patrons entry to films that he or she considers offensive? Should a manager be forbidden by law from firing or failing to hire such an employee?
The law prohibits racial discrimination in housing sales. How will a conscience-protection law deal with the case of a real estate agent who believes that mixed-race marriages are immoral and doesn't want to sell to biracial couples? To what extent might it be the individual's responsibility to avoid employment that will compromise his or her own beliefs?
More than a dozen states are considering legislation to protect health care workers who do not want to provide care that violates their conscience. Passage of such laws, however, would give health care professionals a license to impose their will and their ideology on those who disagree with them. Because of circumstances or geography, some people seeking care might be denied it.
Legislation to allow such discrimination would be an intrusion on the freedom from state-sponsored religion guaranteed by the First Amendment.
KENNETH S. EISENBERG