Perhaps there is some confusion on the meanings of certain words and phrases. At the beginning of Trump’s ‘Reign of Bigotry’, Kellyanne Conway, referring to the number of people who attended the inauguration, introduced the term ‘alternative facts’. It would seem that now there is some general confusion, particularly among those tied to the Trump administration, about what words mean. Let us take a couple of examples:
Religious freedom: the freedom to practice and observe your religion of choice, or none at all, without interference.
Civil rights: the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.
Conscience: an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.
Of course, we can expand on these definitions, but these are the base, the foundation, and for the purpose of this conversation will serve quite nicely.
Donald Trump has once again found a way to circumvent Congressional approval and make law himself by creating a new division within the Civil Rights office of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The name of this new division is “Division for Conscience and Religious Freedom”. It might just as well be the “Division for Discrimination”, for that is precisely what it is. The sheer irony is that it is a division within the Civil Rights office, and yet it threatens to take civil rights from both the LGBT community and any who have had or seek to have an abortion.
The head of the Civil Rights office within HHS is headed up by one Roger Severino, a man who has been extremely vocal in his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections for transgender people. The purpose of this new division is to “defend healthcare workers who, on religious grounds, refuse to treat patients or take part in procedures”. Severino claims this division will “protect people from unfair treatment”.
It seems to me that health care workers are there to serve the public, not to pick and choose which members of the public are worthy of being helped. Think about this one for a minute. Say I had an abortion six years ago (no, I didn’t) and it is in my medical file. Today, I wake up with severe chest pains, and I call for an ambulance. The driver comes, checks my vital signs, then asks if I have ever had an abortion? ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I cannot transport you to the hospital, for abortion is against my religious beliefs.’ Extreme example? Maybe, maybe not. I can see it happening, and that is the part that should frighten us all.
Severino says the goal is to ‘protect individuals from unfair treatment’. I ask you, which is more unfair: denying life-saving medical treatment to a sick person, or asking a health care professional to treat each patient as a human being, nothing more?
“No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one’s deepest moral or religious convictions, and the new division will help guarantee that victims of unlawful discrimination find justice,” said Severino. VICTIMS??? Excuse me, but did he say victims? The nurse who is asked to draw blood from a gay person is the victim here? I think not. The victim is the person who is being refused life-saving medical treatment because of his gender identity. The victim is the one who is being discriminated against, and that is not the nurse who is simply being asked to do her job! This division is nothing more than a vehicle to use religion as a justification for discrimination.
In addition to my absolute fury over this division and its likely policies, I also have a fear about what other doors this opens. Think about this … we have a hell of a lot of white supremacists in this nation, it seems. What happens when they claim their rights are being violated by having to serve black people in restaurants, or white supremacist doctors feel it is unjust for them to have to treat African-American patients? Or what about the anti-Semitic doctor or nurse who is opposed to treating Jewish patients?
Now, back to the definition of religious freedom for a moment. If you don’t believe that abortion is right, then do not have an abortion. That is your right, your freedom to choose not to have an abortion. However, if I do choose to have one, it is not your right to choose for me, it is not your right to prevent me from having one. You follow your conscience and I will follow mine.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said, “Religious liberty doesn’t include a right to be exempt from laws protecting our health or barring discrimination. It doesn’t mean a right to refuse to transport a patient in need because she had an abortion. It doesn’t mean refusing care to a patient because she is transgender. Medical standards, not religious belief, should guide medical care.”
The division speaks of ‘conscience’, yet perhaps these people who are so offended by treating a gay or transgender person ought to examine their own consciences a little closer and see their own bigotry and narrow-mindedness.
Yesterday, a press conference was held with a series of speeches celebrating the new division. Severino led the event and at one point, referring to health care professionals who refuse to treat LGBT people, he compared their situation with that of Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust and Martin Luther King Jr. in his quest for racial justice. Seriously??? The Nazis, he said, had forced Jews to wear a certain type of insole in their shoes with Hebrew writing on them, “so that every step they took, they would be violating their conscience….I could see the common humanity of why someone is forced to violate their conscience with every step they take, how it’s an attack, really, on their human dignity.”
An excerpt from the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by all doctors reads, “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings …” Please note that it does not say “all human beings with whom I am in religious agreement”, but simply “all human beings”. I read the entire oath, and did not find anything that indicates otherwise.
This entire scenario is surreal, it is chilling, for as I said, it opens doors to discrimination in every facet of our society, and against every group. This, my friends, is not what this nation is, not what it was ever intended to be. This is not a nation I recognize, as I have said more than once in the past year. This is not a nation in which I can any longer have even a degree of pride. Donald Trump promised to “make America great again”, but instead, he has made it terrible. Ruined it for people of true conscience, for humanitarians, for people who put others before themselves. If Trump is allowed to stay in office beyond the end of this year, I predict there will be a mass migration out of the country, and I will be leading the way.
Note to Readers: You may have noticed that I am slow these days in responding to comments, and have not visited your blogs as much as I would like. Please forgive me, but I am having serious vision difficulties these days, and can neither read nor write without holding a magnifying glass in one hand. As you might imagine, that slows me down quite a bit. Please bear with me and keep commenting … I read them all, but simply have not been able to respond as timely as I would like. Hopefully my vision problems can be corrected soon, but meanwhile, thank you for your continued patience w!ith my slowness. Love ‘n hugs to you all