How Ethical Are These Directives?

Since I put up yesterday’s post about the Catholic hospital telling nearly all of the OB-GYNs in town that they can no longer prescribe birth control, I’ve been told that this is, in fact, illegal. Ophelia confirms that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists are both looking into this matter. Step one, which is hard to do on a Sunday, is to confirm that Ascension Health really intended to give Bartlesville OB-GYNs this message and intends to stand by this now that it’s received some publicity–that it’s neither a miscommunication nor a “miscommunication”. I’ll update here or in a separate post as I hear more.

Meanwhile, via Mano (and Pteryxx) comes the news of a probably doomed lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the same Ethical And Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (pdf) that is in play in the Ascension Health situation. The impetus for the lawsuit is a case very much like Savita Halappanavar’s but not resulting in death. In this case, however, the patient was not even given enough information to ask for her miscarrying fetus to be aborted to protect her health.

While the article at ProPublica indicates that the lawsuit may not hold up, it also highlights how big a problem we’re looking at.

The ACLU and women’s groups have been voicing concern since the 1990s about the growing role of Catholic health care operations around the country and what they see as the resulting threats posed to women’s reproductive rights. Those complaints have grown louder in recent years as Catholic facilities have moved aggressively to merge with secular hospitals and reports have surfaced about the challenges – some say contortions — that doctors and nurses have sometimes had to face to comply with church teachings on abortion, birth control, and end-of-life care while fulfilling their duty to patients.

Catholic hospitals now account for about 16 percent of hospital beds in the U.S. And in eight states — including Washington, Oregon, Iowa, and Missouri — they control more than 30 percent of beds. Ten of the 25 largest health-care networks in the country are Catholic-sponsored.

That’s an awful lot of people subject to those Ethical And Religious Directives, and frequently without another reasonable choice. An awful lot of those beds are in more isolated communities like Bartlesville, making the next-nearest hospital both far away and likely to itself be a Catholic hospital. That makes this statement from the Ethical And Religious Directives even more absurd.

When the health care professional and the patient use institutional Catholic health care, they also accept its public commitment to the Church’s understanding of and witness to the dignity of the human person.

People don’t have other real options, and they’re not being asked to affirmatively make an educated choice about this matter. It’s being aggressively pushed on them and spread to more and more hospitals. Their acceptance comes not by choice but by declaration of the bishops.

So what are people “accepting” when their local hospital gets bought out or merged? [Read more…]

The Reading List, 3/30/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

A Town Without Contraception

I used to live in Bartlesville, OK. It was just a short stop–six weeks–in the year of living in four towns. It’s a good thing we didn’t stay for a lot of reasons, but now I have one more.

Confidential sources told the Examiner-Enterprise this week that a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control.

How could this happen? [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade

Still reading off Rachel Swirsky’s Campbell recommendation list because wow. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has published mostly in anthologies, so this is one of your few opportunities to read her online, though more are coming soon.

Grass crackles and hisses. She draws the blade, its petals unfurling razor mouths, and recognizes that this weapon is personal to her. All generals have them: a bestiary of blades and a gathering of guns, used to an edge and oiled to a sheen. She maintained a smaller collection than most; this was one she always kept at her side.

The grass is stilled, coils of circuits and muscles and fangs, petroleum stains on Lunha’s sword. She fires a shot into its vitals to be certain. A detonation of soundless light.

Her datasphere snaps online. Augmens bring one of the walls into sharp focus, an output panel. At the moment, audio alone.

“We had to make sure you were physically competent.” A voice keyed to a register of neutrality, inflection and otherwise; she cannot tell accent, preferred presentation, or much else. “It is our pleasure to welcome you back, General Lunha.”

“My connection is restricted. Why is this?”

“There have been some changes to data handling at your tier of command. We’ll send you the new protocols shortly. It is routine. You’ll want a briefing.”

“Yes.” Lunha attempts to brute-force access, finds herself without grid privileges that ought to have been hers by right.

“Your loyalty to the Hegemony has never been questioned.”

“Thus I’ve proven,” said Lunha, who in life served it for sixty years from cadet to general.

“We will not question it now.” The panel shimmers into a tactical map. “This world would offer its riches and might to our enemies. Neutralize it and the woman who lures it away from Hegemonic peace. Peruse her dossier at your leisure.”

The traitor planet is Tiansong, the Lake of Bridges, which in life was Lunha’s homeworld.

Their leader is Xinjia of Pale Cascade, who in life was Lunha’s bride.

Keep reading.

“Wicked Gods”, Eilís Leyne on Atheists Talk

This show had originally been scheduled for several weeks ago. It had to be rescheduled to this weekend.

Wicked Gods is a thriller with an extra mystery attached for good measure. The novel itself evokes the complexity of Dan Brown, though with better writing. From the publisher’s description:

When her seismic exposé of religious abuses lands on the best-seller list, Professor Mira Veron becomes a darling of the literati and a target for religious extremists and culture-warriors alike. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband scheming to undermine her, her opportunistic agent attempting to cash in on her name, and a seductive born-again assassin tracking her every move, she meets up with a publishing tycoon who is guarding a volatile secret.

Veron is drawn into an underground network by the promise of cataclysmic religious revelations only to watch as her new associates mysteriously die, one by one. Under siege by forces seen and unseen, she embarks on a desperate quest for answers. Now she must choose between defending her work and defending her life.

If that isn’t enough mystery for you, Eilís Leyne is a pseudonym. About the author:

Eilís Leyne is the pen name of an author whose non-fiction works have appeared in more than a dozen publications, including the Christian Science Monitor and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Having written two well-received non-fiction books, Wicked Gods is her debut novel.

Join us on Sunday as we talk to our mystery guest about her new book.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Why I Stay

I get a bunch of comments from people who tell me this ugly event or that bit of harassment is the last straw for them. They’re done with organized atheism or skepticism. Sometimes people tell me that if they had to put up with what I put up with, they’d quit. Sometimes people ask me how I stick around.

This is how.

At 11:27 a.m. CST today, Karen Stollznow tweeted that she’d set up an Indiegogo campaign for money to hire a lawyer to fight Ben Radford’s defamation suit against her relating to her accusation of sexual harassment against him. The goal was $30,000, with two weeks given to reach that goal. At 5:19 p.m. CST, that goal was passed. More than 500 people contributed in less than six hours.

When I tell people there is will to fix the problems in these communities, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those 500+ people (myself included with a small donation) weren’t willing to sit back and let this be settled based solely on who could afford to take things to court. So the moment they could do something about that, they did. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me around.

By the way, don’t let reaching the initial goal for hiring an attorney stop you from donating. If Radford is still willing to take this to court, Karen’s attorney fees are going to be much higher than $30,000. Go ahead and donate. The “worst case” scenario in terms of what happens with your money is that Radford drops the suit, and it goes to sexual assault victim advocacy instead.

For the record, you people are awesome.

In Which I Harass Someone Off the Internet

Or, How Stories Change

Yesterday, someone pointed me to a tweet aimed at Elyse Anders of Skepchick. To put the tweet in context, Ben Radford posted a picture on his Facebook wall Saturday night, claiming it was a retraction from Karen Stollznow of her sexual harassment and assault allegations against him. Elyse made some angry comments on his wall and some angry tweets because the statement was unsigned and uncorroborated by Stollznow, yet people were taking it at face value. (You can read how all that played out here.)

The next morning, Elyse found a bunch of the ugly messages in her Twitter replies that many female skeptics receive if they suggest that accused harassers shouldn’t immediately and automatically be believed. To quote a few: [Read more…]

The Reading List, 3/26/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web