ALL of us are susceptible to the allure of dogmatism, the belief that our way is the only way, our cause the only cause. The tendency to drift into extremes is exacerbated by our culture today, given our desire to listen to voices in the media that sound like our own and live in neighborhoods where only the like-minded dwell.
The paths taken by dogmatists, whether to the left or right, always end up in the same place: a sanctuary of ideological purity where messy things like contrary perspectives are swept away.
I was reminded of this disturbing trend when I read the Reproductive Parity Act, a bill pending in our state Legislature that reflects a thoroughly dogmatic approach to abortion.
I oppose this act because it would require any employer with an insurance plan that covers maternity care to also cover abortion, and it violates freedom of conscience by imposing doctrine upon all.
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I believe the unborn child is a human life, precious and deserving of protection. I am not always proud of how pro-life politicians describe this position, spouting nonsense like rape being God’s will. We in the pro-life movement have our own dogmatists, those who stubbornly refuse to recognize that the core of the pro-choice position is liberty, an essential right that includes keeping personal medical decisions personal.
But, of course, this right is not the only right. The Supreme Court recognized that a fetus is more than a hunk of tissue in Roe vs. Wade, worthy of greater consideration than a gob of goo. Science also tells us so, and the heart says even more: Anyone who holds the wonder that is a premature baby also wonders how such a life could be taken were that baby within the womb.
Polls show that a majority of Americans support a woman’s right to choose. But they also show that most Americans believe, as the Supreme Court did, that the fetus is worthy of protections. Americans are outraged when, for example, we learn that in some countries the majority of abortions are performed because the unborn child is female. Most Americans are also deeply disturbed when they contemplate the horror that is partial-birth abortion.
That is, most of us believe that legitimate interests are in conflict when it comes to abortion. But the Reproductive Parity Act — a title borne from a truly Orwellian mind — dismisses these competing interests by valuing only one (liberty) at the complete expense of the other (fetal protections). And then takes its doctrine to an even further extreme.
The act references statutes that purport to protect conscience and religious liberties. But it’s well known that the statutes have already been interpreted to negate these protections in practice.
The clever and cynical language in the act would force employers to provide abortion services in their health-care plans. This obliterates the line separating church and state and tramples upon the free-exercise clause of the Constitution.
There’s a monetary cost as well. Because this act violates the Hyde amendment, it would deprive our state of badly needed federal funds for the health and welfare of our citizens. It would also waste millions in the unsuccessful legal defense of a blatantly unconstitutional law.
It’s not as if our lawmakers are incapable of trying to balance rights in legislation. The Marriage Equality Act, for example, extends civil rights to citizens who had been denied them, and includes clear language that separates church and state and protects religious liberties.
Where are those enlightened legislators now? Dogmatic adherence to doctrine blinds them to the legitimate perspectives and rights of others. Their truth the only truth. One ring to rule them all.
Is there a cure for dogmatism? Not for the truly rabid. And, given the conflicting principles in play, there is no perfect solution to the abortion issue either. We may yet, however, find some good ones. But only if we’re willing to move away from the extremes and gather on more common ground.
Kent P. Hickey is a former attorney and currently serves as president of Seattle Preparatory School.