Rachel Busby’s “Blue Stone Magic (Marshes),” 2013, from the series “Postcards From Pareidolia,” featured at (click on image to see page).

Comparing autonomy rights across medical and social justice issues–reproductive rights, contraception access, prison force feedings, aid in dying–is an intellectual experiment that keeps on giving!  What bodies do we extend autonomy to?  Who’s conscience is more important than another’s?  Which violations of autonomy get under the public’s skin and which don’t?  My friend Thaddeus Pope, a lawyer and academic who keeps the Medical Futility Blog, points us to a recent faith healing case in Philadelphia.  Herbert and Catherine Schaible chose to forego standard medicine for “highly treatable problems.”  Their son Brandon died.  Pope asks why parents are being held for 3rd degree murder when in some states it’s completely legal for doctors to refuse treatment.  It’s a fascinating question, what with conscience clauses being all the rage (looking at you Catholic church).  As I said on Voice of America not too long ago, it seems we’re in an era where conscience protects are increasingly reserved for institutions (think broadly… medical, religious, penal, for-profit companies (see below)), not for all individuals.

Since Roe v. Wade, Catholics and evangelics have done a stellar job of making peace over opposition to some individual rights, namely reproductive rights for women, sterilization rights for men, stem cell research, and legalization of aid in dying.  Their coalition has made possible the juggernaut that is health care delivery in the US.  Now the new Pope  is encouraging Catholics to focus on evangelizing.

Mark Dery takes us into Buñuel’s Surrealism:

Buñuel is a philosopher — a moral philosopher, to be exact, albeit one who makes his case with gleeful, Surrealist savagery, using images dredged from the depths of the unconscious. A sardonic satirist and inveterate practical joker—he once strolled down the boulevard Montparnasse dressed as a nun, complete with false eyelashes and lipstick—he is, at the same time, shadowed by the existential melancholy from which the lapsed Catholic never fully recovers. He loves disguises, and it can’t be mere coincidence that he gets a perverse kick out of passing as a priest. Religion is his abiding theme, there from the first in Un Chien Andalou, in the two priests yoked to the protagonist and dragged unceremoniously across the floor, the dead weight of so much obsolete belief; there at the end in his last movie That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), where the bombing campaign of a gang of absurdist terrorists calling itself the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is the backdrop to the movie’s May-December romance (itself fairly explosive!).

The Atheists take care of their Wolf-Blitzer-correcting own. (via Becky Garrison)

Since Hobby Lobby is a person, duh, it must have a religious right, right?  That’s the question the Supreme Court is asking itself about the craft retailer.  Can the for-profit business dictate what standard health care options  its employees have access to?  Well, if you think about your current health care access, doesn’t your employer really do that already?  Writes Christianity Today:

According to the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, individuals and faith-based organizations have clear religious liberty protections. When it comes to for-profit companies owned by Christians, however, things get murky.

“Before it can rule on whether Hobby Lobby should be exempt from the contraception mandate, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals first must determine whether the company has the same religious liberty rights as individuals and religious organizations,” said Pew in its analysis.

Allow me to take the occasion of the Vatican’s recent letter to the UN about the “100 thousand Christians killed for their faith each year” to point us to Elizabeth Castelli’s “Persecution Complexes,” written for The Revealer in 2008.  I recently had a reason to reread it; now you do too!

An Oklahoma Republican recently lamented the bygone Reagan years, but not for the reasons you might think.  When it comes to poverty and women’s rights, Rep. Doug Cox, a practicing physician, says he doesn’t recognize his party any more:

“Denying access to this important contraceptive is a sure way to increase legal and back-alley abortions,” Cox wrote. “Moreover, such a law would discriminate against low-income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care.”

Note to self:  culture changes all the time.

Is this the sex we deserve?

A recent post by Fordham’s Michael Peppard at Religion & Politics, “Unrepresentative: How the NRA and Planned Parenthood Failed Resent Tests,” compares the NRA and Planned Parenthood–and finds themequally uncompromising and out of step with public opinion.  He thinks he’s being “unorthodox” with this comparison but he’s really just practicing the vogue “middle path” approach to tolerance, compromise and “can’t we all just get along” politics.  You know the one:  Eliminate the “extremists,” bring everybody to the same table, pretend that these individuals represent their constituents (Gosnell represents Planned Parenthood?  That’s an anti-abortion fiction, clearly documented) and that they’ve all got equal footing, resources, objectives (peace!), and then, you know, watch the weakest “compromise” away their rights as those already ensconced in power and privilege get to feel like they’ve been philanthropic.

He completely misrepresents the history of the two movements (or organizations), and he acts like he’s the voice of reason, sent to teach stalwarts some rational thinking.  But the biggest problem with his comparison is that he uses American public opinion as a ballast.  Because, he says, both organizations are out of sync with what America really wants, he urges them both to stop being so stubborn.

Peppard probably walked away from the piece feeling like a calm voice of reason but ultimately, he just sounds smug.  I mean: Since when does the majority ever do a good job of protecting minority rights?  Isn’t the idea of  “the citizens” as a common sense decision-making body just as ideological as the organizations Peppard disburbingly compares?