Why I Support IN’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

by Wesley J. Smith

Much is being made about Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), particularly as to whether it could allow a florist a legal defense against discrimination litigation for refusing on religious grounds to arrange flowers for a same sex marriage. Such screaming!

I don’t get involved in that issue. But I strongly support the federal and state RFRAs as a protective for medical conscience, that is, keeping doctors and other medical professionals from being forced to participate in actions that take human life, e.g. abortions, assist suicides, and perhaps one day, embryonic/fetal cell therapies.   

Such authoritarianism is already the law in Victoria, Australia (abortion), Quebec (euthanasia), and soon all of Canada (both).

Not here. Yet.

But some medical associations already support requiring doctors to participate in life-taking actions. From my, “The Coming Medical Martyrdom,”in which I quote an ethics opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

Conscientious refusals should be limited if they constitute an imposition of religious and moral beliefs on patients…

Physicians and other healthcare providers have the duty to refer patients in a timely manner to other providers if they do not feel they can in conscience provide the standard reproductive services that patients request. . . .

In an emergency in which referral is not possible or might negatively impact a patient’s physical or mental health, providers have an obligation to provide medically indicated requested care.

The “mental health” wording is key, for it could mean (as in abortion jurisprudence) that the emotional anxiety of a woman denied an abortion could be enough to force the doctor’s compliance, despite his moral objections.

The successful Hobby Lobby litigation against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate–a stalking horse for abortion and assisted suicide–illustrates the importance of state RFRAs. Hobby Lobby and associated cases involved a federal statute protecting the religious freedoms of business owners from a federal regulation that would have forced them to violate their faith.

But the federal RFRA does not apply to the states. Thus, if religious freedom in the medical context is to be fully protected–on a case by case basis that will vary based on the facts of each case–then state RFRAs also need to be passed throughout the country.

So good for Indiana and the other states that already have RFRAs. More please.

You may now recommence the screaming.