“Ethical Objections” And Women’s Rights

As I have previously noted, Doug Masson is one of Indiana’s most thoughtful and knowledgable bloggers; his essays are particularly helpful when the legislature is in session, because in addition to being a lawyer, he was once on the staff of Legislative Services, the agency charged with drafting bills that will actually do what lawmakers want to accomplish (assuming, of course, that those measures are passed).

Doug recently looked at one of the anti-choice measures that are repeatedly and inevitably introduced in Indiana.

S.B. 201 provides that pharmacists and nurses can’t be required to administer or dispense an “abortion inducing drug” if they claim to have an ethical objection. (Evidently, according to Doug, the statutory definition of an “abortion inducing drug” excludes Plan B, for whatever comfort that might provide.) But analyzing which medications would fall under the bill’s parameters and which ones wouldn’t is really beside the point.

As Doug puts it:

Beyond that, of course, there is the impact on women who want control over their own bodies. And there’s the question of why abortion should be entitled to special pleading when it comes to employee’s ethical concerns over their employer’s operations. What if a health care provider finds drug use immoral and objects to treating addicts? What if a gun store employee objects to selling firearms to guys who abuse their wives? What if a bank employee objects to their employer’s lending practices? Usually we tell employees to go work somewhere else, but this legislation seeks to carve out a special exception for a medical service that, for the time being anyway, remains a Constitutional right.

That is, of course, the crux of the matter. The male legislators who simply cannot abide the notion that a woman should control her own reproduction evidently assume that ethical principles are limited to situations that offend their personal religious beliefs (or threaten patriarchal dominance.)

The Bill of Rights limits the decisions that government can properly make. The issue isn’t abortion. The issue is who has the right to make that decision. In our system, the government doesn’t get to decide what prayer you say, or if you pray at all; it doesn’t get to decide what book you read or what political positions you endorse. Government doesn’t get to decide who you can love, whether you can use contraception, or whether a woman will carry a pregnancy to term.

The real issue is power.

A government that can tell women they can’t abort has the power to tell women they must abort. (See: China) Our system doesn’t give government the authority to make those decisions for individual citizens.

Government also doesn’t get to decide whose “ethical objections” deserve to be honored and whose can be ignored.

If a pharmacist’s religious beliefs interfere with his ability to dispense medications, he needs to find another profession. And if a lawmaker’s religious commitments outweigh his fidelity to the U.S. Constitution (despite the oath he takes when he assumes his position) he shouldn’t be in the legislature.


  1. What can be said about the women who do not want to control their own bodies? The women who want someone else to make all of the hard life decisions for them. The women who’s self image was developed through religious dogma, hammered into them by ministers, priests and their own parents. Women who want the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities and want all other women to do he same. Women who see “liberated” women as a threat to be attacked before their own world falls apart. How do we respond to such women if in fact we are allowed to respond?

  2. We need to bring back that old, really old, adage; “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.” It has taken on new meaning over the past few years and targeted new victims. How the hell did they get into our beds legally and how do we legally remove them unless and until Citizens United is removed and our voting and civil rights are returned to us as required by the Constitution? Are there any states which still have laws against mixed race marriages; or a dandy one here in Indiana against “visiting the bedroom of a member of the opposite sex” which referred to bedding someone you were not married to. My cousin got caught by that one years ago in a downtown hotel. It is not only women’s rights these politicians enact laws against.

    Theresa; it isn’t only “…women who’s self image was developed through religious dogma, hammered into them by ministers, priests…”, it is those new converts willing to give up their autonomy and subject themselves to male domination as they deny their own intelligence and abilities but maintain the responsibilities that go along with it and the religious laws they allow to govern their lives.

  3. An article on gay marriage dealt with a couple who owned an old church building in which they ran a florist business. They rented out the chapel from time to time, but refused to rent it to two men who wished to be married in it, saying that their religious beliefs would not let them sanction a gay marriage. They were sued and forced to settle the case. The two men were married somewhere else, but one of them was quoted in a newspaper article on the matter. He said that “their religion says gay marriage is wrong, but mine says it is not wrong. Why does their religion trump mine?” Substitute abortifacients for gay marriage, and you have the case Sheila wrote about today.

  4. Pascal; in 1970, at age 34 with five children and “female problems” I was forced to have my husband’s permission for a tubal ligation; and again needed his permission 18 months later for a hysterectomy. No religious factor; a medical requirement, I wondered if it was because the insurance was in his name through his employment. Will never know anything but that by the time of the hysterectomy my life was at stake and I still had no right to choose.

  5. It seems that we need to make an addition to the statements used while taking an oath for office to include that a person “will under no circumstances and at no time will I consider my religion or my religious beliefs in any way whatsoever while performing the duties of this office”.

    This type of wording should be included in all oaths of office from local to state to federal. That would ensure that they would all be following the Constitution and would make it much more difficult to sue the government to enforce their religious beliefs. It might also deter religious zealots from pursuing office.

  6. It’s not about abortion. It is about choice. The only people I know of who are “pro-abortion” are Republican legislators whose mistresses are pregnant. Unfortunately for the rest of us, most of them will still be able to afford to send her to Mexico regardless of what Kavanaugh et al do to our rights here in the good old US of A.

  7. One of the many reasons I love Sheila:

    “A government that can tell women they can’t abort has the power to tell women they must abort. (See: China)”

    I’ve said this since I was a very young woman. It’s still true. The “religious right” will still never admit to it.

  8. when i appealed my way out of ferderal prison for growin pot,i had to do THE half way house..
    now ill be up front,this is a a contract facility, and gets it money from your tax dallors, (that are not in wall streets pocket,before they get it’ (the tax cut) anyway, in this maze of endearment are rules, and even if you dont have ,or been, cited as a problem child,(ie, inmate of trouble,)
    or you have been classified,”non chemically dependant(myself)” in your profile,you will still attend all the above programs in this halfway house. one such was “anger management”(with jack nicholson)(joking) but such a person and with such a attitude to make you react… (it was interesting to watch and judge him,as he played you)(reverse stratagy)if the above people in this subject above, applied,, would it be interesting how they would react? mmmmm, maybe money well spent ,eh? best wishes…. seems kim didnt expect that he was fingered for more sites in n korea,as i read, he was pissed we found his game…trump could nt do the deal because of that. kim is playing him and us, as they usually do. no nobel for dump…

  9. I’m really sick of seeing how men keep trying to legislate women’s bodies through legal and illegal means. It disgusts me equally that churches have so little respect for EXTANT people as to insult them with their misguided “rules” that work against women. Do men just have such insecurity in their own gender that they have to continue to control women’s lives? Probably.

  10. A surge of pharmacists who believed in the sanctity of natural erections and refused to dispense Viagra would probably clear up the problem of those moral objections pretty quickly. I doubt any law marker with some clout would stand for that.

  11. Dirk @ 8:47, you are correct.

    Here in Indiana we can only teach abstinence as a method of birth control in schools. Science and common sense – Go to Hell.

    The Rabid Reactionary Evangelical Republicans on face book are making anti-choice for woman one of their top posts, along with Bernie is communist, build the wall, and AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) is an airhead.

    As I have posted here before – I cannot understand how woman can belong to some of these churches, when they have no power at all and can only serve tea and crumpets with a robotic smile.

  12. Abortion is an issue that gets out the vote. If you look at who is getting abortions it turns out the funds Christian crowd is getting them in proportionately greater amounts than their percentage of the population. But it’s ok since they’re not those godless sluts using abortion for birth control that they hear about from the politicians pushing anti abortion legislation

  13. “If a pharmacist’s religious beliefs interfere with his ability to dispense medications, he needs to find another profession.”

    Thank you for espousing my exact response to anyone attempting to inflict their beliefs on another. This is especially relevant to the government attempting to have a say over, i.e., control, another’s right to their own body. That includes the right of a fetus determined by its mother, and not the government, a church, father/semen donor, parents, or even medical practitioner.

    Until women are recognized as having absolute power/control over their bodies and their declarations are heard, received and accepted, we are not a nation of equality.

  14. Abortion is a wedge issue introduced into the mainstream political arena by the worst people of their generation: Karl Rove and Lee Atwater. These bastards will (and did) do anything to win elections. They give not a single damn for women’s rights, only enflaming ignorant people to vote for their damaged wreckage of a candidate.

  15. Very well said, as usual Sheila. I don’t understand why the Evangelicals and other right-wingers don’t understand that abortion is really about what issues the government should be involved in. As you pointed out, if the government does have a say-so in determining that a woman may not have an abortion, it also has a corresponding right to compel an abortion, as they have done in China. What about people with certain genetic dominate traits that wind up with the victim dying or living with severe disabilities, incurring a lot of expense for medical care and special education, such as Down Syndrome, Lou Gehrig Disease (ALS), Tay-Sachs, or Huntington’s Disease? Arguably, wouldn’t we, as insurance rate payers, have the right to command people who carry such genetic traits to either be sterilized or have prenatal testing, with mandatory abortion upon finding an issue? That’s only if the government has a stake in reproductive decisions.

    It isn’t too far-fetched to believe that the government could do this. Many years ago in Indiana, eugenics was practiced, in which persons deemed unfit to reproduce were sterilized against their will or without their consent. Such conditions as mental retardation, “chronic drunkenness”, sexual promiscuity and certain criminal acts qualified. Sometimes those deemed mentally retarded turned out to not be below average intelligence. There was an Indiana case in which the issue was whether the Judge ordering sterilization could be held liable civilly or criminally for ordering sterilization. Of course, he was held not liable.

  16. The government will never end abortion, only how & where it is performed. The wealthy and well-connected will fly their women to countries where it is legal. The poor and low income citizens will resort to coat hangers, falling down stairs, drinking bleach and “back alley” abortionists as women have always done since time began. So, it’s really about shaming less fortunate women and putting them in harm’s way for the sake of appearing morally superior to others. Funny how the same people who justify not taking “a life” through abortion, have no problem with women dying of unsafe medical procedures, the death penalty and perpetual war. Makes one wonder . . . .

  17. These 8 Democrats voted for the bill and have not explained this reversal on healthcare decisions. There is already a religious exemption, but adding pharmacists to this list jeopardizes woman’s health. Like it or not, when a woman miscarries she may be prescribed medication to complete the abortion of tissue. Also woman are prescribed medication to prevent conception after rape. Ed Delaney, Rita Fleming, T. Austin, BPBauer, Ross Deal, Terry Goodin, Justin Moed, Melanie Wright.

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