Dear Mr Emerson, Pt 1

I read your article yesterday with some distress. It’s not comfortable to read a full frontal attack on one’s profession and professional standards. In addition, some parts are just plain wrong, and the arguments are poor. Come, let’s reason together…

  1. Opting in to providing abortion services. You spend much of the article highlighting the confusion that might exist whenever some doctors opt out of providing certain services. And yet you think doctors opting in to a register of those providing abortion services is a bad idea? You expect all doctors to provide this service, when not all doctors provide other services, like minor surgery, or contraceptive services. Do you seriously expect all GPs to retrain to provide abortion services, when they don’t have to provide access to coil fitting or contraceptive implant insertion? Never mind that a significant proportion have grave ethical concerns over such a service?
  2. Apples vs oranges. You recognise that drawing a comparison between refusing to provide a cake celebrating gay marriage, and refusing to participate in an abortion is a “false equivalence”. You’re right! Apples vs rocks might be a better comparison.
    1. This is not a consumer relationship, it is a professional relationship, and the expectations and standards differ. A patient can demand an antibiotic script, but if the doctor doesn’t think it reasonable, then they do not have to provide it. A shop can only make that differentiation with legally controlled substances like alcohol or tobacco, with age constraints.
    2. Cake making is not an otherwise contentious subject. People buy cakes every day. Sometimes more than once a day. Eating cakes in moderation is a delightful social activity, not otherwise loaded with ethical burdens.
    3. There is no way in which carrying out an abortion could be morally good, or neutral, unlike making a cake. I.e. it could be possible for that baker to make a cake in keeping with their firmly held beliefs. “Support heteronormative marriage!”. It would be difficult to justify a positive abortion
    4. There is no discrimination with doctors who object to abortion – they will decline to do an abortion for all women, no matter what race, language, sexuality, financial or social status.
  3. “We don’t serve your sort around here, love”. Only, they do. Doctors who will decline to be involved with abortions will still be glad to see those same women for every other condition under the sun. Head cold. Period pains. Travel vaccines. Maternity care. And they will see those same women afterwards, if they go ahead with their abortion, and not treat them differently. That is not discrimination, and should not be thought of as such.
  4. Withholding a lawful medical procedure on religious grounds is not an “extraordinary act of discrimination”. It is a fixed, considered stance by a thoughtful professional which existed before the patient in question walked into the room. On that particular question, the patient and doctor may disagree, but there’s a good chance that, on every other aspect of their medical care, they are in concordance. What is an extraordinary act of discrimination is the discrimination against a child in the womb, simply because her mother finds her an inconvenience. THAT is discrimination [Definition – “unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people”, specifically unborn children.]
  5. The reason that conscientious objection is a recent innovation is that the prevailing code of conduct in medicine for many centuries has been predominantly Hippocratic/Judeochristian, like the prevailing morality of society. State sponsored abortion and euthanasia is the innovation of the eugenicists like Margaret Sanger in the 30’s, based on Darwinian and Marxist understandings of biology and society. I ask the question – whose are the aberrant belief systems here?
  6. I agree with you on the point about the 1967 Abortion Act being a poor piece of legislation that has allowed abortion on demand (95% of abortions in the UK are ‘lifestyle’ abortions, rather than because of concerns over maternal health) But you seem to be silent on the issue of whether ‘lifestyle’ abortions in the Republic are a good idea or not?

More to follow…

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