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A right to do no harm

The arguments against conscience protections for healthcare workers are predictably thin

A protester waves a pride flag with the Florida State Seal at a rally in Orlando, Fla. Associated Press/Photo by John Raoux

A right to do no harm
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He had one job: Put the girl to sleep, so they could remove her healthy uterus. The very young girl. So young, she couldn’t vote.

Everything was ready. The team was all gathered together. And he was one of the team. Or at least, he had been. But not this day. This day, it was all over. He knew it was all over as soon as he opened his mouth to say, “No.”

I know his name, but I can’t tell you what it is, because he can’t take the risk of going public, or telling any of the other names he could name—yet. 

In Florida, as of May 11, my anonymous friend would enjoy the cover of a new conscience law that upholds the rights of all health care providers to opt out of any medical operation based on their “sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.” Conservative Christians are rightly celebrating the bill as a legal victory, in an age when such protections are more desperately needed than ever.

Predictably, those who hate conservative Christians are not celebrating. Notorious “trans” Twitter activist Alejandra Caraballo immediately christened the law the “Let Them Die Act.” This act, so he informs his audience, will allow bigoted medical professionals to “refuse to treat patients, even if it puts their lives at risk.” He assures us that this isn’t just something he’s making up out of his head. Someone really did die of negligence just because they were gay. Here, you can read all about it on Wikipedia. 

It is, indeed, a sad case. On Aug. 7, 1995, a young cross-dressing male hairdresser who went by “Tyra” Hunter was fatally injured in a D.C. car crash. Some witnesses reported that the fire medics, instead of treating him, laughed at his appearance and made racist slurs. The fire department disputed this account, and the ensuing court case was decided against them, with $600,000 awarded to Hunter’s mother in damages.

Notice anything missing here? Oh, that’s right—“sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.”

Of course, Caraballo doesn’t care. As far as Caraballo is concerned, there is no moral distance between the EMT who refuses to treat a bleeding cross-dresser and the young Christian who refuses to anesthetize an underage girl for a “gender-affirming” hysterectomy. Bigots, both of them, in the gospel according to Caraballo.

Some tender Christian souls still persist in the belief that if only we could just show the world how really loving we are, then maybe the world will love us back.

Other fantasy scenarios conjured up by the bill’s detractors include the imaginary horror of an emergency responder who refuses to help an unwed mother give birth. (Pro-life Christians with traditional sexual ethics are notorious for hurting unwed mothers after all, aren’t they?) A hyperlink raises the momentary alarm that perhaps someone actually found a real case somewhere to back up this particular nasty speculation. But no, it’s just another near-identical dispatch from the LGBTQ+ news ghetto.

Old resentments around contraception and PrEP (prophylactic medication against HIV for gay men) are also being resurrected, with the usual assertions that anyone who refuses to enable the sexually promiscuous must be maliciously wishing STDs upon them. It’s like the ’80s all over again, when we were told it wasn’t enough for Catholic hospitals merely to open their beds and nurse dying gay men through a grisly death.

Some tender Christian souls still persist in the belief that if only we could just show the world how really loving we are, then maybe the world will love us back. Maybe we’ll stop getting so much bad press. Maybe that trans Twitter activist will stop and write a long apology thread. He’s come to Jesus! He’s seen the light! Conservative Christians aren’t bigoted, actually!

To the extent that this dream comes true, these tender souls should understand that it is not likely to manifest in the form of a favorable article, tweet, or podcast. It will come in the form of tiny, private interactions that nobody sees or applauds. Maybe you’ll have a lesbian friend who realizes she can trust you, because you answered her call and came to get her when her landlord was making her feel unsafe. Maybe you’re a professor at a secular college, and one day you’ll have a student who can’t decide what gender he is, but he decides he can tell you all about his dark past in your office, because you treated him as fairly as you treat all your students.

Or maybe you won’t even enjoy that small degree of respect. Maybe it will always be your lot in life to be hated by people you want to love. But remember Christ’s words to his disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

If we were of the world, the world would love us. We are not of the world, and so the world hates us. Too many pastors and churches are still unwilling to confront this hard saying of Jesus. But it is 2023, and the hour is late. If they don’t confront it now, perhaps they never will.

Bethel McGrew

Bethel McGrew is a high school teacher, math Ph.D., and widely published freelance writer. Her work has appeared in First Things, National Review, The Spectator, and many other national and international outlets. Her Substack, Further Up, is one of the top paid newsletters in “Faith & Spirituality” on the platform. She has also contributed to two essay anthologies on Jordan Peterson. When not writing social criticism, she enjoys writing about literature, film, music, and history. Her edited collection of the World War I letters of Canon A.E. Laurie is forthcoming from the U.K.’s Helion Press.


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