Bioethikos: Bringing Life to Bioethics

Archive for July, 2014


Some Final Thoughts on Gosnell

Monday, July 21st, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

The verdicts are all in, and the sentences have all been laid out. Last month, the last of ten co-defendants was sentenced in the grisly murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. In the raid on his Philadelphia clinic, body parts and fetuses were found dating back thirty years. According to pro-life advocacy group Operation Rescue:

[The] jury found [Gosnell] guilty of 3 counts of First Degree Murder, 21 felony counts of illegal abortions beyond the 24 week limit, 211 misdemeanor counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law, numerous conspiracy and corrupt organization charges. He also pled guilty to Federal charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including oxycodone, alprazolam, and codeine; distribution and aiding and abetting the distribution of oxycodone; and maintaining a place for the illegal distribution of controlled substances.

Dr. Gosnell avoided the death penalty by agreeing not to appeal his sentences, which included three consecutive terms of life in prison with no possibility of parole. His co-defendants received varying prison terms, community service, and probation. Several received more lenient sentences by testifying against Gosnell.

The spin cycle has worked furiously, with pro-life groups quick to point out the ugliness of abortion, while pro-choice advocates claim that Gosnell is a monstrous exception, making clear the need for “reproductive care” that is safe, legal, and more sanitized than Gosnell’s clinic.

OK, if the goal is to make legal abortions safer, let’s improve safety and health standards at abortion clinics. Doesn’t that seem like a good idea? But efforts to do just that have been met with widespread opposition. For example, Ohio law requires that all ambulatory surgical facilities have a transfer agreement with area hospitals to cover emergencies. Last January, Ohio Health Director Dr. Theodore Wymyslo ordered the abortion clinic in Sharonville to close, due to a lack of such an agreement (the clinic is run by Dr. Martin Haskell, famous for promoting the now-illegal “partial-birth abortion” procedure). On July 10th, a Hamilton County judge finally ordered the clinic closed, but it has remained open, because of perceived “safety concerns” with it not being available.

So here is the bottom line: Many abortion clinics are unsafe, but magistrates and judges are complicit to keep them open, afraid to interfere with perceived “rights” enshrined by Supreme Court precedent since 1973. The result is many abortion centers that threaten the health of women and prey on the vulnerable.

Verdict Details Summary
News Source for Sharonville Clinic Closure Order
Source for Decision to Keep Clinic Open

The Hobby Lobby Victory and Conscience Rights

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Dr. Dennis Sullivan

The wait is over, and one of the most hotly-contested debates of our modern day has been resolved. By a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood) cannot be forced by the Affordable Care Act to provide certain contraceptives to its employees. If you have been confused by the intense discussion, here are some implications of this latest ruling.

What types of birth control did the companies object to?

At issue were not just contraceptives in general (for example, Romans Catholics object to most forms of birth control on the basis of natural law). Specifically, the two companies  oppose the use of Plan B and ella, the two most common forms of “emergency contraception,” as well as the copper IUD (intrauterine device), a common  long term birth control method. The reason for their opposition stems from their view that protectable human life begins at conception. After fertilization in the fallopian tube, it takes 6-1/2 days for a new embryo to travel down the tube for implantation into the uterus. The three methods cited may act, in part, to prevent implantation. This makes them immoral from a pro-life standpoint.

Is this objection based on scientific facts?

This is a complex question, and the answer is clouded in rhetoric and obfuscation. First of all, FDA-approved language on websites and in drug inserts would imply that prevention of implantation is a possible mechanism of action of the methods in question. Now, the actual evidence is disputed, and some recent studies imply that the concern about Plan B may be misplaced. Nonetheless, even if this is not scientifically true, the government seems to believe it as well, and doesn’t care. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius said in 2011, “The Food and Drug Administration has a category [of drugs] that prevent fertilization and implantation. That’s really the scientific definition.”

What rights are at stake here?

The ACA mandate to cover contraception tramples on the rights of religiously-informed employers to act in ways consistent with their values. This is a religious-liberty issue, and has widespread implications for many other conflicts over conscience rights, including the right of healthcare professionals to refuse to participate in abortion, or for pro-life pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs for assisted suicide.

What does the future hold?

Despite this victory, look for further attempts by the government to encroach on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious expression.

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Source for Sibelius Quote