October 29, 2016

The Danger of Catholic Hospitals

I was reminded by Samantha Bee a few days ago that Catholic hospitals represent a unique threat to women because the institutions are constrained by Catholic dogma. Catholic hospitals will not provide birth control, perform abortions, or perform sterilizations, even when medically indicated. Should a woman find herself in a Catholic hospital and in need of an abortion to save her life, she had better see that her will is in order or find her way to an alternative hospital that is not stuck in the Middle Ages.

Bee did a fine job of exposing the danger that Catholic hospitals represent. I cannot do a better job, so I invite you to view her powerful segment from Full Frontal:

I’m not a lawyer and don’t understand all the rules under which hospitals currently operate, but there is apparently some ambiguity as to whether a hospital can refuse to perform a life-saving procedure on the basis of the religious beliefs of its owners. (See “One of the Nation’s Largest Catholic Hospital Systems Says It Can Deny Women Emergency Care Because of Its Religious Affiliation.”)

Let’s get one thing straight, however. By any reasonable 21st-century moral calculus, no hospital should be allowed to let a patient die because its “standards”—not the standards of the medical profession—do not permit it to perform a legal procedure that is the standard of care in non-Catholic hospitals.

When I was an ignorant southern conservative, I was appalled when the government asserted that owners of “public accommodations” (hotels, restaurants, etc.) could not discriminate on the basis of race. I was oblivious of the pain and inconvenience such discrimination visited upon racial minorities. I eventually came to realize, however, that society has the right to impose restrictions on institutions that offer their services to the public. Outlawing discrimination provided not only a benefit to particular populations, but also a general benefit—though one not necessarily immediately recognized—to the body politic.

A hospital, whether a nonprofit or for-profit one, also offers its services to the public. Whereas a hotel’s denying services can inflict inconvenience and embarrassment, the discrimination practiced by Catholic hospitals can inflict chronic suffering, disability, or death.

The public, through the instrument of government, should assure that all hospitals provide a standard of care determined by the medical community, not one determined by a cabal of Roman Catholic bishops. We should demand that hospitals owned by the Catholic Church are first of all hospitals, providing all the services hospitals are normally expected to provide.

If the Catholic Church is incapable of providing 21st-century hospitals, it should not be allowed to operate its pseudo-hospitals at all.

The Catholic Church and evangelical Protestants have been working—alas, with some success—at expanding the notion of freedom of religion. This has been most conspicuous in the ridiculous Hobby Lobby decision and the ongoing efforts of the Catholic Church to exempt itself from providing reproductive services to employees of church-related institutions such as universities and hospitals. The American notion of religious freedom, however, was never intended to facilitate the imposition of one’s religious beliefs on others, nor was it intended to ascribe protectable religious beliefs to non-church entities, whether purely commercial or church-related. Above all, religious freedom was never meant to sanction the virtual murder of innocent women by withholding standard medical treatment.

It is to be hoped that a more reasonable, liberal Supreme Court resulting from the election of Hillary Clinton will begin to scale back the notion of religious freedom so as to protect all citizens, not simply the hysterically paranoid on the Christian Right.

October 8, 2016

Trump Apologizes

Readers no doubt know that The Washington Post released a blockbuster video yesterday that shows GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about his harassment of and disrespect for women. (See first video below.) When I first saw this disgusting video, I was unsurprised. It has been clear to every decent American that Trump is a lying, male chauvinist pig, in addition to being an insensitive and ignorant son-of-a-bitch. Apparently, however, this latest revelation went too far for Republican Party leaders. The video made it all-too-clear that Donald J. Trump is the General of the Army of the Republican War on Women. That revelation is simply too blatant and too dangerous to paper over. Party leaders are contemplating their next move. Some have suggested that Trump should step aside; some have even suggested that, to protect his own reputation, Pence should step aside.

Trump initially issued one of those familiar non-apology apologies—if anyone was offended, etc. It quickly became apparent that this insincere statement would not do, and that that Trump had offended a large fraction of the electorate. To save his scalp, Trump later issued the following video statement:

In his statement, Trump is clearly and carefully reading from a teleprompter, a skill he is notoriously bad at. Someone suggested that his “apology” seems like a hostage video. His style of delivery does not suggest sincerity or engender confidence.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am. (An AP story earlier in the week suggests otherwise.) Trump tries to minimize the significance of the offending video by calling it “more than a decade old.” He continues, “I said it; I was wrong; and I apologize.” Notice that he doesn’t apologize to anyone in particular—not to women in general, not to particular women, and not to the American people. Moreover, he apologizes only for what he said, not for the treatment of women that he admitted to in the initial video.

After 21 seconds of the 91-second video, Trump’s contrition is over. He lapses into a campaign ad, repeating his dystopian view of the country. His travels have changed him, we are told, and he pledges to be a “better man”—not a high standard. “I will never, ever let you down,” a not very compelling promise under the circumstances.

He cannot resist attacking “Hillary Clinton and her kind,” who “have run our country into the ground.” This is typical Trumpian misdirection. (Think of his one-sentence dismissal of his years-long birther campaign, which was preceded by an interminable plug for his new Washington hotel at a recent press conference.) The video controversy is “nothing more than a distraction”—one he desperately wants to go away—from more important issues. Issues like Bill Clinton’s infidelities and Hillary’s having “attacked, shamed, and intimidated his victims.”

I cannot understand why Bill Clinton’s infidelities are blameworthy, but Donald Trump’s are not. In any case, Bill Clinton is not running for president, and his failings, whatever they might be, have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Moreover, Hillary’s verbal barbs directed at her husband’s “victims” are exactly what we would expect for any self-respecting wife who truly loves her husband. They are not evidence, as are Trump’s statements and behavior, of a hostility toward women generally.

In short, Trump’s attempted apology is a disaster. He should have admitted that the video was legitimate, taken responsibility for what he said and for the behavior he described, and pleaded for forgiveness. Any attempt to justify himself or to blame others for “greater” sins (any sins, for that matter) should have been omitted from his statement. The apology should not have morphed into a campaign ad.

What should the GOP do? I think the answer is clear. It should disavow its ticket, cease all political activity in favor of that ticket, and admit that Hillary Clinton will be (and should be) the next President of the United States. The GOP should instruct electors pledged to Trump/Pence to instead vote for Clinton/ Kaine in the Electoral College. Nothing less is honorable.

I am not holding my breath.