4/03/2005

Bold prescriptions

From Russ Baker of TomPaine:
Monday’s Washington Post reported on the increasing numbers of pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and morning-after pills, saying that doing so would violate personal tenets. Like the Terri Schiavo case, where ardent defenders of the sanctity of traditional marriage were willing to poke every branch of government into the private business of husband and wife, the harmful activism of right-wing pharmacists affords reasonable-minded, middle-of-the-road or progressive folks a fine opportunity to seize the moral high ground, and begin moving the national conversation away from cynical, demagogic politicians and the mobs they foment...This and the Schiavo case are but a few examples of a rising tide of societal or individual professional decisions made “for” others— which includes teachers not wanting to teach evolution or parents not wanting others’ kids to get an unambiguous understanding of a universally accepted scientific concept. But it really hits home when life and death are concerned. It probably won’t be long before we hear about police officers, emergency medical technicians, and others starting to ignore the rules and making their own personal, “moral” judgments. Then we’ll really see the whole issue of rights—and who should exercise them— explode. Now would be a fine time to start discussing this, and not leave it to religious extremists to set the agenda. When Congress got steamrolled to vote for federal intervention in the Schiavo matter, many of those supporting the bill seemed conflicted, and later confessed to having serious doubts about what they were doing. Surely, they too would have appreciated a little “moral” guidance. By all indications, the far right had the entire Schiavo thing stage-managed down to the smallest detail, with broad cooperation between institutions, talking points agreed upon, and everyone working in overdrive on overtime. It would help a great deal if the forces of reason brought a similar energy to preparing for the controversies of the future. How can rational people start dominating the debate? By preparing to publicly articulate and defend a set of basic principles on life, death, medical care, etc.—on all the key moral issues. Some pro-choice advocates are already working to frame the abortion issue as part of a broader effort to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and to shift the onus onto those who oppose abortion under any circumstances, by asking them to come up with workable alternatives—emphasis on workable. Put in a snappier fashion, instead of concentrating on the unborn or the essentially dead, how about these right-wing moral authorities show some attention to the living? How can you support meddling in unrelated strangers’ affairs— but oppose broad, helpful intervention on issues that affect everyone—like health insurance for kids and the poor?...Social issues aren’t just for mobilizing fanatics anymore. They’re for recapturing the moral high ground and bringing it back where it belongs: with the sane, the reasonable, the decent and the fair.

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