The Corner

Politics & Policy

Forced to Bake a Cake Today, Assist Suicide Tomorrow

The Wall Street Journal editorialized in favor of the right of the Christian cake baker’s right to refuse his services in celebration of a same sex marriage. From the editorial:

A ruling for Colorado could encourage other government burdens on First Amendment religious rights, especially in this era of right-left cultural polarization. Could the state compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions, or require Catholic adoption services to place children with same-sex couples?

As Justice Kennedy noted in Obergefell, the “Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” If this applies to same-sex marriage, which isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, it certainly ought to apply to religious belief, which is there in black and white.

Absolutely. In fact, I will be watching this case very closely precisely because of its likely impact on medical conscience rights.

The law today generally protects medical conscience in the areas of abortion and assisted suicide, although not pharmacists dispensing contraception. But those protections are under intellectual assault in bioethics in preparation for eventual attempts to change the law.

Many within the medical intelligentsia want to install a “patient’s rights” approach to healthcare. Under this view, if a procedure is legal and it will fulfill a patient’s health or lifestyle desire, the doctor must provide the intervention (or find a doctor who will)–even when doing so would violate the MD’s religious beliefs and/or violate her moral conscience.

If these advocates get their way, such compelled acts could (and already have, in a few cases) require doctors and nurses to participate in controversial procedures or interventions such as abortion and assisted suicides, prescribe and/or dispense contraception, provide assisted reproduction procedures and therapies made from human embryonic or fetal stem cells, perform sex change surgeries, etc. against their religious or moral beliefs. 

Indeed, none other than bioethicist and Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel opined in the New England Journal of Medicine, that doctors who do not wish to perform elective procedures accepted by the medical establishment, have two choices: Find an area of medical practice (such as radiology) in which their moral views will not be challenged–or get out of medicine altogether.

So, this cake baking case, like many Supreme Court cases, will have a huge impact well beyond the facts at bench. The legal and constitutional principles the decision establishes could one day determine whether pro-life and Hippocratic medical professionals have to choose between their religious/moral beliefs and their professions.



Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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