The Corner

Re: Population Growth in the Philippines

Christopher, I fear that we will try the patience of the Corner’s readers if we delve too much into our (very differing) reactions to a proposed new law in the Philippines, but this paragraph in your reply to my earlier post raises questions with wider implications than the law we were discussing. You write:

Also of note are the unmentioned violations of freedom of conscience and religion that are peppered throughout this bill. The bill requires that all reproductive-health workers “provide information and educate” and “render medical services” consistent with the new provisions in this bill. Similar to recently passed health-care legislation in the United States, this bill does not include measures that protect conscientious objections for health-care workers or institutions that refuse to provide certain services due to religious or cultural beliefs and practices. In addition, the health-care workers that receive this new training will receive a 10 percent honorarium to incentivize them to buy into the new programs.

Leaving aside the fact that I can see no reasonable objection to incentivizing people with additional pay to work on a particular program, and noting (as one of our commenters points out) that this is not about abortion (which remains illegal in the Philippines), it is indeed hard to avoid the conclusion that the services to which you are referring relate to contraception. If my understanding is correct, you are effectively saying that health-care workers should be given the right to refuse to dispense contraceptives if it contravenes their religious and/or philosophical beliefs (a right too far, I think), but even if my understanding is wrong (in which case I apologize), the question still remains: to what extent should employers be forced to let an employee opt out of aspects of their job on the grounds that those particular duties offend the employee’s religious, ideological, or philosophical sensibilities?

It’s not an easy question, and I don’t have an easy answer, but I raised this topic some years ago on this very Corner, in the course of which I linked to this story from the London Times:

Some Muslim medical students are refusing to attend lectures or answer exam questions on alcohol-related or sexually transmitted diseases because they claim it offends their religious beliefs. Some trainee doctors say learning to treat the diseases conflicts with their faith, which states that Muslims should not drink alcohol and rejects sexual promiscuity. The religious objections by students have been confirmed by the British Medical Association (BMA) and General Medical Council (GMC), which both stressed that they did not approve of such actions.

Food for thought, I think, especially in an era when, thanks in part to multiculturalism, Western societies seem set on redefining themselves in a way that repackages individuals into very distinct and often competing groups, each with their own collection of very distinct and often competing ‘rights’ and privileges, a process that is unlikely to end well.  


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