On the issue of conscience clauses, we think the Rev. Carlton Veazey (“Allowing reproductive choice,” Voice of the people, June 29) showed far more insight into the ethical dilemmas faced by both health care institutions and consumers of health-care services than either the June 15 editorial or the July 20 response from Bishop Edwin Conway.
Where religious pluralism is valued, there will be conflicts between churches and the state on what is morally correct behavior.
In resolving those conflicts, Rev. Veazey values the right of conscience and the religious freedom of individuals, most often women, who need to decide how to exercise responsible parenthood.
The Tribune and the bishop seem to value more highly the conscience of the Roman Catholic Church.
Facts belie the assumption that providing reproductive health services such as contraception, sterilization and most fertility treatments would necessarily violate the conscience of Catholic hospitals.
Throughout the U.S., Catholic hospitals, HMOs and other insurers have found ways to provide these services to those who use Catholic facilities.
For example, many Catholic HMOs include contraceptive coverage in their plans.
In Missouri, Mercy Health Plans covers contraception through a third-party contractor, Med Plans 2000, which handles billing for these services.
In Texas, Seton Health Plan works with Planned Parenthood to provide contraceptive coverage for enrollees in its Medicaid HMO.
Health care is not a private religious matter. It is a community service.
Even Catholic hospitals are largely financed with government money and are tax exempt.
Reproductive health care is not trivial and consumers often do not have choices. Is it merely an inconvenience to say to a woman in the emergency room after rape that if she wants to prevent a pregnancy, she now needs to go to another health care agency? Should a woman who is diabetic not be told during her treatment for diabetes that pregnancy for her is a high-risk matter, and if she does not wish to become pregnant, she needs to think about using reliable and effective methods of contraception?
Whatever the bishop and the Tribune may think, American women have spoken on this matter.
An April poll of 1,000 women by Belden, Russonello & Stewart for Catholics For a Free Choice showed that women feel strongly (85 percent of them) that any hospital that receives government funds should allow doctors working there to provide any legal, medically sound service.
This letter appeared in the 28 August 2000 edition of the Chicago Tribune.