Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Beginning of the End?

In a piece I cite here, columnist Jack Wheeler predicts that "The dark chapter of America's peculiar institution of abortion is coming to an end." Perhaps it is. Consider this story, from AP via Yahoo! News:
Congress Helps Providers Refuse Abortions

Sun Nov 21, 8:25 AM ET

Politics - U. S. Congress

WASHINGTON - Congress made it a little easier for hospitals, insurers and others to refuse to provide or cover abortions. A provision in a $388 billion spending bill passed by the House and Senate on Saturday would block any of the measure's money from going to federal, state or local agencies that act against health care providers and insurers because they don't provide abortions, make abortion referrals or cover them.

"This policy simply states that health care entities should not be forced to provide elective abortions, a practice to which a majority of health care providers object and which they will not perform as a matter of conscience," said Rep. David Weldon, R-Fla., a doctor who sponsored the language.

Weldon said his measure was simply a refinement of decades-old restrictions against federal aid for most abortions. "This provision is meant to protect health care entities from discrimination because they choose not to provide abortion services," he said.

But Democrats complained that the provision was slipped into the voluminous year-end spending bill without debate or discussion in the Senate or the House.

"Now any business entity can decide to tell doctors working for it they can't give information to women about their right to choose," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif.

Many clinics and other providers, in exchange for federal funds, are required to at least tell pregnant women who do not wish to have a child that abortion is among their options. Weldon's language would make it more difficult to enforce that, opponents said.

"The Weldon amendment is essentially a domestic gag rule, restricting access to abortion counseling, referral and information," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "Health care companies should not be able to prevent doctors from giving medically necessary information."...
Well, boo hoo, Ms. Boxer and Ms. Pelosi, but private businesses most certainly can tell their employees what constitutes acceptable, job-related speech. You may be able to say anything in the halls of Congress, but you can't go to work for, say, an airline and expect to keep your job if you publish an article in which you advise travelers to fly with a different airline. The pending law merely nudges a traditional employer-employee relationship toward its proper state.

If a doctor doesn't like it that his employer forbids him to discuss abortion as an option, the doctor can find an amenable employer or set up his own practice. Isn't that the American way?

In any event, the pending law also signals another positive change. It breaks a link between federal funding and federal interference in the operations of state and local governments and businesses. It's a small step, but it's in the right direction.