Morality clause or judgement clause?

If anyone can think of a catchier title for this, by all means let me know.  Then again… maybe this isn’t the kind of post that should have a catchy title.

The other week, I was checking out the latest Grand Rounds in order to give myself a bit of a break during lunch, and one of the posts listed was a link to a post in which a woman described her troubles getting emergency contraception after a broken condom.  The Grand Rounds host commented thusly in linking to the post: "I fully support a physician’s choice to practice according to their
conscience, and am sympathetic to this particular point of view, but I
still felt badly for this gal’s experience unsuccessfully finding emergency contraception."

So, I clicked on the link, expecting to find a post about someone who’d been given a hard time from one or two people in her quest for EC.  Maybe I’m naive, but I would never have expected anything like the kind of troubles I read about.  Do read it.  Please.

Now, I do understand that there are people who believe that life begins at conception and that prescribing a dose of hormones that may potentially prevent a fertilised egg from implanting is thus morally equivalent to murder.  While I don’t share this view myself, I do – very reluctantly – admit that someone who feels that way might have a valid case for calling in a morality clause that exempts them from prescribing EC.  This is not to say that I consider their case a given (that’s a subject for a post in itself) – simply that I consider that argument worth at least, well, considering.

But that isn’t what happened here.

To assorted ER doctors in whatever anonymous area of rural Ohio this is: Guess what?  If you’re basing your decision on whether or not to prescribe EC on whether or not the woman concerned is married, then I’m afraid you do not get to claim a morality exemption clause.  If you’re OK with prescribing EC to a married woman, then you clearly _don’t_ believe that that insensate pinprick-sized speck of cells is a human being whose right to life you must defend.  There are possible logical grounds for claiming that a fertilised egg is a human being – I don’t agree with them, but they do exist.  There are no possible logical grounds for claiming that a fertilised egg is a human being if it happens to be residing in the genital tract of a woman who is currently single but not if it happens to be residing in the genital tract of a woman who is in possession of a marriage certificate.

Doctors who feel that way are not claiming a morality exemption clause, although I’m sure many of them conveniently manage to convince themselves that they are.  They are making a judgement about the lifestyle of the woman concerned.  If you are prepared to prescribe EC for a woman who was raped or who’s married but not for women who don’t fall into those two categories, then what you are doing is basing your judgement not on your beliefs about the status of the fertilised egg, but on whether or not the woman chose to have premarital sex.  You are claiming that a woman who made this choice should not be allowed to take the same steps to avoid an unwanted pregnancy as a woman who is living up to your view of what constitutes morally acceptable sexual standards.

The purpose of morality exemption clauses is to allow doctors to avoid performing actions themselves that they feel to be morally wrong.  it is not to allow doctors to punish other people who have performed actions that the doctors feel to be morally wrong.  Refusing treatment to other people solely because you do not approve of their lifestyle choices is not morality.  It is bigotry.



Filed under Grr, argh, The doctor is OUT. To lunch.

4 responses to “Morality clause or judgement clause?

  1. thanks for the comment, I actually am sympathetic to physicians practicing according to their conscience, and even though I do believe many of the things the physicians based their decisions on, I would never base my medical decision making on the same beliefs. It saddened me to read her story.

  2. Paula

    Couldn’t find a way to email you directly, so am posting off-topic to you, about someone you have had your problems with…
    La Leche League has booked to perform, for their upcoming 50th Anniversary International Founders’ Dinner in IL, the woman who bills herself as the “Comic Mom,” but who is also a hate-filled, homophobic, anti-adoption advocate.
    Tricia Shore (who also writes as Tricia Smith Vaughan), calls herself as the “Comic Mom. She has just issued a press release touting that she is a guest performer at the upcoming LLL International Founders’ Dinner. In her release, Shore says: “…the Comic Mom was welcomed by La Leche League and other mom-friendly organizations….When La Leche League searched for someone to entertain at their International Founders’ Dinner, they found a unique match in the Comic Mom. “I’ve performed for La Leche League conferences before,” said Shore, “and they are truly my kinda folks!”
    (To view Shore’s entire press release, see:
    Having contacted the LLL of North Carolina about Shore last year after she performed at a state LLL conference, we are just appalled to hear that La Leche League AGAIN has asked Shore to appear to perform at an LLL event, this time a national event.
    Frankly, we’re SHOCKED that La Leche League would once again associate itself with a woman who openly publishes hate-filled, homophobic and anti-adoption diatribes online, especially after LLL was advised of Shore’s opinions last year.
    The situation: At LLL of North Carolina’s conference in Oct 2005, Vaughan did her so-called comedy show. Shore/Vaughan is not, however, as she promotes herself, “one of the funniest women around,” she is one of the most hate-filled women around. Around the time of the NC conference, Shore/Vaughan had just recently published an article about the horrors of adoption, and how adoption is creating “artificial families.” The article titled “NO MORE MOMMIES?” is a travesty.
    (See or below.)
    In it, Shore/Vaughan says: “We all only have one set of true parents” (which for her, are the biological ones).
    A few select Tricia Shore/Vaughan quotes about gay parenting:
    * “I don’t know why the religious only seem concerned when this family tampering occurs with homosexuals. Why does anyone, religious or not, think that forming artificial families is acceptable?”
    * “Only when we realize that every child has only one mom and one dad will the idea of “two mommies” become the absurdity that it should be.”
    * “The flexibility of mental health diagnoses is handy when you’ve got people storming into your convention, as homosexuals did the APA convention, and you can stop the protests by changing the disease to a non-disease;”
    * “The next time you become angry at a couple who claims to be “two mommies,” ask yourself how often you’ve capitulated to the rhetoric of this brave new world…”
    * “As we head toward this brave new world, let us not blame only homosexual activists for leading us away from true family.”
    On the adoption front, Shore/Vaughan is equally hateful.
    * She that people are “recycling children via adoption.”
    * She derides adoption and fertility treatments by saying “If God does not bless us with a child, we cheat.”
    These are just a few of the hate-filled sentiments she thinks are true.
    The entire article is attached here, or read it for yourself online at:
    And if you do a simple Google search on “Tricia Smith Vaughan,” you’ll find a long list of diatribes and hateful essays penned by this so-called “Comic Mom.”
    Are these the sorts of attitudes LLL wants to be associated with? Is this the sort of “comic” performer they want for a national LLL event? LLL, despite having been previously notified of Shore/Vaughan’s positions, is giving a stage and voice to a woman who, under the guise of being “pro-Mom” and a “comic mom,” instead has such hate-filled opinions. It appears that LLL has made a decision to affiliate itself with Shore/Vaughan, and her controversial, hate-filled opinions. It seems so contrary to the usual approach of LLL.
    And it deserves to be made public.
    Is Tricia Shore/Vaughan and what she represents really “welcomed” by LLL? Is she the kind of “mom-friendly” performer that represents the values of 50 years of LLL? Is LLL really “her kinda folks?”
    We’ve contacted LLL to ask them to please seriously rethink booking her for such an important LLL event, given her hate-filled approach to parenting, but have yet to get a response.
    She may be admirably pro-breastfeeding — but in her case, only by so called “natural” parents (her term, not ours). And…her positions denigrating parenting that takes place any way but her own definition of “natural” are absolutely antithetical to the rest of the parenting community.
    We encourage you to blogging this on the Broadsheet website…
    Adoptive Parents Anti-Discrimination Committee
    [Edited by blog author: article deleted]

  3. It’s not always as simple as someone having sex out of wedlock and taking a risk. Sometimes there are complicated emotional reasons why it might have happened. For a young teenager it can be very difficult to access the emergency contraception available in the UK.
    To get to the 24 hour supermarkets you often need a car and a handy £24. To get the clinics you need to go after school and make excuses. Many of them are twice a week and, as most of these situations arise over the weekend, are too late to be of any use. To get to see the GP, the teenager has to call at 8am and fight the phonelines to get through and get a spot, hopefully making it clear just how urgent it is. All these things take courage and a child who has got themselves into such a situation maybe totally alone and lacking the very thing that can get them help.
    My experience of such a situation as a young teenager is documented here

  4. ooooo – it SO enraged me to read her crap, I sent her a letter.
    Thanks for opening my eyes to her.

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