Should Abortions Be Ruled “Non-Essential” Medical Procedures In The Pandemic Crisis? An Ethics Decision-Making Exercise

News Item:

Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, setting off a new front in the fight over abortion rights in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Both states said they were trying to preserve extremely precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.

But abortion rights activists said that abortions should be counted as essential and that people could not wait for the procedure until the pandemic was over.

On Monday, Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, clarified that the postponement of surgeries and medical procedures announced by Gov. Greg Abbott over the weekend included “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” Failure to do so, he said, could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time.

Oh-oh.

Is abortion truly a non-essential medical procedure? Is it ethical to treat it as one? This is a perfect storm of an ethics conflict colliding with an ethical dilemma, with so many of the factors that confound ethical analysis present. For example, is the shortage of beds and the stresses on medical services really the only factors being considered by those in making the policy decisions in Texas and Ohio? Is the pandemic really a cover, in whole or in part, for other motives, like a desire to limit abortions generally for as long as possible? Is the ethical response by a pregnant woman to comply with the policy, even to the point of giving birth. There are many ethics decisions involved here.

Let’s just focus on one of them, the decision to call abortions non-essential procedures, and run it through one of the ethics decision-making systems. I’m going to use Professor Laura Nash’s 12 Questions, from her Harvard Business Review article, “Ethics without the Sermon” (1981)]

1. Have you defined the problem accurately?

In other words, “What’s going on here?” Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”

As I thought it would, today’s ethics quiz about the 6th grade dance with the “must accept” policy has sparked some excellent reflections and flashbacks. Taking off from Bryan’s comment—

When my son was in sixth grade cotillion class, the instructor prefaced dances with “in this class, and only in this class, if someone asks ‘may I have this dance?’ the answer is ‘yes, thank you.’ “ They also switched off having boys ask girls and girls ask boys. The whole point of the class was to learn polite interaction at an age when they’re so confused and might otherwise act weird. I thought it was a lovely compromise. This was in about 2005, so it was not so long ago, yet not inflicted with today’s outrageous thinking.

Pennagain authored this  Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”:

My experience was the same as Bryan’s – about a half-century prior. The class was once a week, part of the gym program as well as a “social” activity, I believe, and emphasizing a similar “buddy” system – you partnered with everyone at one time or another.

Ours was a smallish class so we got around to everyone else at least twice. We learned ethnic circle dances in lower classes, then box step, fox trot, waltz, and some others, ending the 8th grade (preparing for our first “formal”) with a singularly unsensual rumba. One of my classmates had hyperhydrosis, aka, a surfeit of sweat, and holding her hand was a chore for her partner and an agony for her. It got so we would safety-pin a pair of socks – not necessarily clean ones – under the shirt’s left shoulder to take care of half the problem and then, with her eager cooperation, each would try to touch each other’s palms with as little pressure as possible. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance

A furious mother is making an issue out of a Utah middle school’s policy requiring sixth-graders to agree acquiesce when a classmate asks them to dance.

Alicia Hobson’s 11-year-old daughter, Azlyn was asked to dance by a boy she thought was icky. She “politely” refused, but the principle at Rich Middle School in Laketown, Utah,  intervened, telling the couple to get out onto the dance floor. Was the boy short, fat, covered with acne, bad-smelling, a bully, afflicted with Down Syndrome? Was he poor, have a lisp, or Muslim? Was there a cool boy Azlyn was waiting to play Prince Charming? Never mind: As the principal, Kip Motta, later explained in a letter to Alicia Hobson, the school has a policy requiring students to accept dance invitations, and sticks by it. Motta wrote,

“We do ask all students to dance. It is the nice thing to do and this will continue to be our policy. There have been similar situations in the past where some students have felt uncomfortable with others, and, as stated prior, the issues were discreetly handled. This allowed all students to feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and included.”

Hobson equates the policy with “rape culture,” and is prepared to take the issue to the Utah Board of Education. “Girls HAVE to learn that they have the right to say no and that those around them have to respect that,” Hobson wrote on Facebook. “I’m not going to quietly stand by while my daughter and all of her classmates are being wrapped up in rape culture. No way.”

Ethics Alarms dealt with a similar issue in a different context in this post, about children accepting kisses and hugs from repulsive family members.

Before I pop the quiz question, I have three observations. The first is that that the principal’s fad use of the word “safe” has just got to stop. That’s not what “safe” means, and if we keep using “safe” to mean “insulated from any event, feeling or experience that someone might prefer to avoid,” the word will cease to have any communication value. The second is that equating the social obligation to accept an invitation at a supervised dance with “rape culture” is a hyperbolic crock, and should be identified as such immediately.

The third observation is that the “Today” headline is intentionally misleading and unfairly supports the mother’s inflammatory framing. “School policy forbids kids from saying ‘no’ when asked to dance” presumes the conclusion Hobson wants. “School policy requires students to be kind and considerate when asked to dance” promotes  the school’s rationale. An ethical and responsible headline would be, ““School policy requires students to accept an invitation to dance.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today :

Is the school’s policy wise and ethical?

Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” Item #2, Dan Hudson’s Paternity Leave

“Wait, What??? YOU’RE SKIPPING THE GAME THAT WILL DECIDE THE PENNANT???”

In a post sparked by the the current National League Championship Series (boy, I hope I don’t have to add that the sport is baseball) I had written in part,

“The ethical thing would have been [for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Daniel Hudson, the team’s closer] to pass on the opportunity to take the game off. The Nationals major weakness is a terrible bullpen, and Hudson is one of the few reliable  relief pitchers on the team. As it happened, the Nats won a close game, but that’s just moral luck. They might have lost because of his absence. That loss might have cost the team its chance to go to the World Series. Millions of dollars would be lost to the franchise that pays Hudson seven figures to improve its fortunes. The careers, lives and family fortunes of his team mates would be affected; the jobs and income of hundreds of merchants and others who rely on the success or failure of the team would have been put at risk. How could anyone argue that the emotional support Hudson would lend his wife during childbirth outweighs all of that, or constitutes a superior ethical obligation?”

Who? Why reader Tim Hayes, that’s who, who not only argued thusly, but did so at a Comment of the Day level, and then responded to my subsequent challenges with equally excellent responses. This gave him the Ethics Alarms equivalent of a three home-run game, and I’m going honor him with the whole sequence.

Here is Ethics Alarms slugger Tim Hayes‘s three-dinger Comment of the Day, on Item #2 in “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 10/12/2019…” :

Counter-argument on the Hudson situation – For the Nationals to have placed themselves in a position where a single player taking advantage of a promised benefit at his job (the paternity leave) created a realistic chance of them losing the game (due to their lack of hiring sufficient healthy talent into their bullpen) is inherently unethical as an organization, because it creates a situation where all the groups you mentioned can be placed in dire straits by what happens to a single performer. Attaching the consequences for the team’s unethical staffing decision to Hudson’s personal behavior is unfair; The team did not choose to get him to negotiate away the benefit he invoked (which, for the appropriate compensation, they presumably could have), and was therefore at least aware of the possibility that something outside their control could sideline Hudson. That it was his wife giving birth, and not Hudson being hit by a self-driving car, which resulted in their not having access to him, was merely a result of luck (pregnancy and births being both notoriously difficult to plan, and the Nationals presence in the playoffs being, from the admittedly little I understand of baseball, something which was unexpected to say the least). Continue reading

Ten Observations On Democratic Candidates Debate 2A, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

The transcript is here.

4. Asshole comment of the night: Pete Buttigieg saying that we have to ask how Donald Trump even got “within cheating distance of the Presidency.” The Democrats still refuse to admit that the election of the President was legitimate, without any evidence whatsoever. I don’t care who they are running for, the White House or mayor of East Podunk. I am not forgiving or trusting such a party until they recant, or are properly punished.

5. Do these people realize how ridiculous and irresponsible they sound regarding climate change? Beto O’Rourke: “I listen to scientists on this, and they are very clear. We don’t have more than 10 years to get this right.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “Science tells us we have 12 years before we reach the horizon of catastrophe when it comes to our climate.” How many times does the boy have to cry wolf before people catch on?

And, incredibly, there was support expressed by the two top demagogues on the stage for the absurd and totalitarian “Green New Deal.” Warren  (who proved her intellectual dishonesty and lack of integrity by co-sponsoring the Green New Deal bill, though it wasn’t worthy of a sixth grade science student, much less a Harvard professor): “Climate crisis is the existential crisis for our world. It puts every living thing on this planet at risk.”  Classic fact-free fear-mongering. Absolutely no scientist has suggested that “every living thing” is as risk even with the most dire climate chance models. As I have noted before regarding Warren, she deliberately tries to exploit public ignorance, and asserts things that we know she knows are not true. How can anyone support someone like that?

Then comes Bernie Sanders: “We can create what the Green New Deal is about. It’s a bold idea. We can create millions of good-paying jobs. We can rebuild communities in rural America that have been devastated. So we are not anti-worker. We are going to provide and make sure that those workers have a transition, new jobs, healthcare and education.”

The crypto-communist knows that what the Green New Deal is all about is, as Ocasio-Cortez’s guru, Saikat Chakrabarti, explained to the Washington Post,  the  Green New Deal isn’t “a climate thing at all,” but a stealth “how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.,” and, necessarily, a put government’s iron boot down on personal liberty thing, though neither Bernie, Liz, Saikat or the other aspiring totalitarians in the party will say so out loud.

6. When moderator Jake Tapper asked “whether the middle class should pay higher taxes in exchange for universal coverage and the elimination of insurance premiums,” Sanders rebuked him for using “a Republican talking point.” Thus was born a new progressive dodge. The next night’s debate participants quickly took up the task of distorting yet another term to make honest debate more difficult.  My favorite was Julian Castro’s “Open borders is a right-wing talking point.” Continue reading

Ten Observations On Democratic Candidates Debate 2A, Part I

The candidates in the second round of debates, Part A, were Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. John Hickenlooper,  former Rep. John Delaney, Rep. Tim Ryan, Gov. Steve Bullock, and New Age guru Marianne Williamson.

The transcript is here.

1. In some kind of record for the earliest controversy in a debate, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan raised metaphorical eyebrows by keeping his arms by his side during the singing of the National Anthem, while every other candidate put their hands over their heart. This could not have been accidental, especially with the Left’s “Let’s diss the Natonal Anthem because Colin Kaepernick says so, to the extent that we can make any sense out of what he says” fad, most recently embraced by Megan Rapinoe.  So Ryan was virtue-signaling, to those who think such cynical disrespect is virtuous.

Yet he did not have the guts afterwards to admit it. Asked about his gesture, Ryan told ABC News: “I love this country as much as everybody else. The national anthem plays at football games, I put my hand on my heart for the Pledge of Allegiance,” . “I don’t know, the choir was singing and it was great.”

Ethics verdict: He’s a weasel and a weenie. A weensel. Continue reading

Family Ethics: Three Kennedys Choose The Public Good Over Family Loyalty. Excellent.

Three members of the fabled Kennedy Clan, that of Joseph P. and Rose, JFK, RFK and Ted, Caroline and the Late John-John, and all the rest, have publicly rebuked their vocal anti-vaxxer family member, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in a statement signed by his siblings Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Joseph P. Kennedy II, as well , Maeve Kennedy McKean, who is the executive director of Georgetown University’s Global Health Initiatives, and calls RFK jr, “Uncle Bob.”

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the former lieutenant governor of Maryland and the former chair of the Global Virus Network. [Full disclosure: she was also a resident in my undergrad House, Lowell House,  while I was in college, and we knew each other a little bit] and Joseph P. Kennedy II, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, is the chairman and president of Citizens Energy Corporation.

Beginning with an overview of the harm caused by  Americans avoiding vaccines, including the current measles outbreak, the three write in Politico,

These tragic numbers are caused by the growing fear and mistrust of vaccines—amplified by internet doomsayers. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—Joe and Kathleen’s brother and Maeve’s uncle—is part of this campaign to attack the institutions committed to reducing the tragedy of preventable infectious diseases. He has helped to spread dangerous misinformation over social media and is complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines.

We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment. His work to clean up the Hudson River and his tireless advocacy against multinational organizations who have polluted our waterways and endangered families has positively affected the lives of countless Americans. We stand behind him in his ongoing fight to protect our environment. However, on vaccines he is wrong.

And his and others’ work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they’ve been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that’s not luck; it’s the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years. We don’t need measles outbreaks to remind us of the value of vaccination.

It is impossible to overstate what a stunning departure this joint essay (titled “RFK Jr. Is Our Brother and Uncle. He’s Tragically Wrong About Vaccines”) is from the traditions and practices of the Kennedy Family. It, they, all of them, have guarded the Kennedy name and legacy like Cerberus at the gates of Hell. They have intimidated historians, artists, government officials, prosecutors and others from actions and revelations that would expose the ugly (ugly, oh-so ugly) side of  many of the family’s most celebrated members.

I directed the first professional production of a drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis that avoided or debunked the various myths carefully embedded in the official narrative to make President Kennedy the hero of the event, when he most definitely was not.  The play had been blocked by the Kennedys twice. Continue reading

A Visit To “The Ethicist”

I haven’t opined on posts by the current holder of The New York Times Magazine “The Ethicist” title as often as I used to, in part because Kwame Anthony Appiah, unlike his predecessors, is a real ethicist, and usually answers the questions to his ethics advice column competently. The February 18 column was especially interesting, however, because Appiah seemed to be ducking some issues. I don’t blame him; two of the three questions he received have no clearly right ethical answer.

The one out of the three that was relatively easy was the anonymous inquirer who discovered that his company was willfully violating labor wage laws and under-reporting wages for workers’ compensation purposes. “Should I report this company to the authorities?” The Ethicist was asked. My answer? YES. 1) Get a lawyer. 2) Document what you know and how you found out about it. 3) Quit. 4) Blow the whistle. “I hope you proceed. Obligations of confidentiality to your employer don’t include the duty to conceal fraud,” was Appiah’s conclusion.

The other two questions are more problematical, especially the first: A correspondent asks what she should do with relatives in desperate financial straits who are begging for her money to bail them out. “I love my family, and it is extremely painful to see them suffer, but at the same time it is difficult for me to fund their lifestyles when they seem like a bottomless pit. I feel guilty and uncomfortable, but also angry and annoyed. Yet how can I watch my sister be thrown out of her house and potentially end up homeless if I have the resources to help her?”

The Ethicist ducks. First he says that the woman should try to train her relatives in financial management, even to the extent of actively managing their budgets. Right: THAT’s going to work. His conclusion: “So the most important thing you and your brother can do is to be clear with her about what you are and are not willing to do if her grasshopper behavior brings her into financial difficulties. And that means first being clear about this matter yourself. Bear in mind that you owe more to family members than you do to strangers, but you don’t owe it to them to abandon all your hard-earned plans in order to pay for their mistakes.”

But that wasn’t the question. Of course family members can’t demand that you fix their financial mistakes. It isn’t a matter of “owing” them, either. The Ethicist also cheats by resorting to a straw man: she didn’t ask if she should “abandon all her hard-earned plans.” She asked how she could sit back and watch them suffer when she had the resources to alleviate some of that suffering. Continue reading

President McKinley’s Statue And Revisiting The Newlands Fountain Principles

The statue-toppling mania as a part of the Left’s cultural revolution and determination to remake history in its own image—a form of thought-control–hasn’t abated; it’s just been eclipsed in the news cycle. For the record, 28 cities have removed close to a hundred statues of Confederate figures alone. Meanwhile, the statue topplers, flushed with victory, are raiding their sights to include Founders like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, politically-incorrect Presidents like Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, and others. You can read, if you have lots of time, most of the Ethics Alarms posts on this topic here and here.

It isn’t just statues, of course. It is honors of every kind: university dining halls and dorms, Democratic party annual dinners, and much more. The Boston Red Sox have petitioned the city to retract the honor of a having a street by Fenway Park named after the man who made the team the regional institution is is today, and who was primarily responsible for the team remaining in Boston.

The latest mutation of the culturally-rotting virus has Native Americans demanding that memorials and honors to any figure whose legacy offends them must be eliminated. Five years after President William McKinley was assassinated,  George Zehnder presented the Northern California city of Arcata with an 8.5-foot-tall statue honoring him.  Arcata home to Humboldt State University, placed it in the city’s main square.

McKinley was no Confederate: he was a Union war hero at the Battle of Antietam. He was also a popular and effective President. He was elected in 1896 while the nation was in a serious depression, and was successful enough in getting the economy back on its feet that he was re-elected in 1900, the first Republican to get a second term since Grant.  He, not Teddy Roosevelt, led the U.S. into international significance, winning the Spanish-American War, and acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. He also gave his life for national service, as have all our Presidents who died in office. Ah, but President McKinley also oversaw federal policies that continued the decline of Native American tribes in the U.S., and reservation lands were reduced by as much as 90 million acres. during his administration. Now the Tribal Council of the Wiyot Tribe in Northern California senses a chance at revenge.  It is demanding that the statue of McKinley be removed.

Almost four years ago, before the din of falling statues became a faint hum, like locusts, across the land, I wrote about a controversy in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where a fountain at the center of Chevy Chase Circle honored Francis Griffith Newlands,  a U.S. Senator who also founded the Chevy Chase Land Co., which in turn created neighborhoods on the Washington and Maryland sides of the circle. Senator Newlands also was a racist, and a proactive one. He was a white supremacist who even attempted to have  the 15th Amendment, which granted voting rights to African American men, repealed.

To assist in the analysis of when and whether any honor to a historical figure should be withdrawn, I offered a series of seven guiding principles: Continue reading

Ten Points Regarding The Rob Porter/White House/Domestic Abuse Scandal…

1 We know that the FBI had told the Trump White House about allegations from Porter’s two ex-wives that he had been physically abusive. Apparently, the FBI did not confirm, or could not, that the accusations were true. The allegations were still sufficient to prevent Porter from getting security clearance, whether they were true or not. There are good reasons for this. That does not mean that it is fair that someone’s career can be derailed and his reputation smeared without proof of wrongdoing, but it is necessary.

2. The position of an employer that has its own integrity and reputation to protect when an explosive allegation of personal and criminal misconduct regarding an employee arises is an ethics conflict. The Golden Rule suggests that such an employer should not jettison such an employee absent due process and sufficient proof of wrongdoing. However, the greater duty in this case is to the administration.

3. Porter should have resigned. In fact, that he did not resign was the best reason to fire him. This was his domestic problem, and he had no right to  inflict it on the White House, even if he was innocent.

4. There was nothing inconsistent about President Trump’s tweets condemning domestic violence and regretting the lack of due process and fairness in the current #MeToo witch hunt environment. He is right on both counts. As usual, he was not as articulate as he needs to be when opining on such delicate topics. He is not going to become more articulate, however.

5. Porter’s denials of wrongdoing, absent more, should carry no more nor less weight than the accusations against him.

6. Nobody who does not know Porter, the women involved or the intimate details of their relationships should be saying things in public like “I believe the wives” or “I don’t believe them.”  This flips us back to “I believe Anita Hill but don’t believe that slut Paula Jones” territory. People believe who they want to believe. Women who accuse men of abuse have no more claim or right to be believed without evidence than any other accuser, including those who accuse you.

7. Domestic disputes are infamous for the frequency with which previously honorable combatants will use false or exaggerated accusations to gain legal leverage or for old-fashioned revenge. It is possible that Porter’s two wives want to destroy his life. They seem to be doing a good job of it, if that’s their objective. Continue reading