Health care is critical for leading a productive, fulfilling life. There are various barriers to receiving appropriate health care, some of them economic in nature. But even when these economic barriers are overcome, the delivery of appropriate health care is too often obstructed or denied by policies, practices, and beliefs that incorporate religious doctrines or pseudoscience.
The harmful influence of religion and pseudoscience on our health care is manifested in many different areas, affecting individuals in every age group. Commonplace and proven medical procedures and treatments are being withheld, and dangerous alternative medicines pushed onto patients without restrictions. Individuals are being denied the right to control what happens to their bodies, whether it’s in the context of decisions about reproduction or end-of-life care. That’s why we at the Center for Inquiry are launching Keep Health Care Safe And Secular, a campaign to fight on every necessary level to ensure that health care decisions are made on scientific grounds, and not based on religion, mere “tradition,” or magical thinking.
The attacks on our basic health care rights are diverse, relentless, and growing. Here are just some of the areas of our lives being adversely affected:
- Reproductive Health: Religious interests are trying to limit access to and information about contraception. From abstinence-only education, to laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their religion, to corporations imposing their religious beliefs on employees, access to contraception is in danger of growing ever more restricted. Meanwhile, state governments are passing law after law attacking the right to choose, goaded and supported by the religious right. States’ sole abortion service providers are being regulated out of business, leaving women with no options.
- Vaccinations: Despite the thorough debunking of the wholly-invented linking of vaccines to autism, the rate of vaccination against several fatal and disabling childhood diseases continues to fall in many areas, leading to outbreaks of diseases long considered rare or defeated, potentially presaging the end of the “herd immunity” that keeps all of us safe. The problem isn’t limited to parents basing important decisions about their child’s future on pseudoscience peddled on TV talk shows. Organized religion is also seeking to extend religious exemptions to compulsory vaccination laws.
- Hospital ownership: Religiously controlled hospital groups are spreading throughout the country, buying up once-secular hospitals. Many areas now have no emergency care outside of religiously run facilities, where doctors are forbidden from even discussing a full range of treatment options with their patients if that treatment goes against some religious dictate.
- Alternative Medicine: While real medicine must endure an extensive and expensive government controlled testing process to insure safety, ‘alternative remedies’ can be put on the shelf alongside proven treatments without any real protections for consumers. Homeopathic medicine, concoctions that are either composed of worthless water, or worse, tainted with toxins, is sold in our pharmacies and retail outlets as though it were real medicine.
- Addiction Recovery: The most common forms of addiction recovery involve religion and spirituality, and often these are the only means of support available to those trying to rid themselves of a threat to their health and their family. Secular alternatives are few and far between. Worse, convicted drug offenders are often forced by law to enter religiously infused recovery programs, regardless of their own beliefs or lack thereof.
- Faith-Healing: In a misguided effort to respect religious beliefs, parents who insist on keeping their sick or injured children from receiving badly needed medical care are too often given a free pass. It is one thing for an adult to choose prayer over medicine for themselves, but their children are given no choice, and suffer immeasurably as a result.
- End of Life: All of us should have the right to hasten our deaths, in consultation with our physicians, when medical remedies are exhausted and the alternative is a painful or degrading existence. Yet adamant opposition to physician-assisted dying based on religious notions regarding the “sanctity of life” has continued to block legislation that would give people at the end of their lives control over their destiny, allowing them to die with dignity.
What can be done in the face of this assault? The Center for Inquiry believes that these impediments to essential health care services must be challenged at every turn. That is the purpose of the campaign – to Keep Health Care Safe and Secular.
With the support of people like you, CFI has already covered an enormous amount of ground, and we will continue and expand our efforts.
- We have filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of concerned, secular organizations supporting the government in the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court, and created a resource page devoted to explaining what the case is about and why it’s so important.
- We will continue to pursue opportunities to litigate in areas where litigation is the best avenue for progress, by filing briefs in existing cases, or bringing cases to court where religion or pseudoscience threaten people’s health or basic rights. We will also press the government to act to protect the interests of people.
- We will continue to seek to have alternative medicines properly regulated, in particular homeopathy. Our petition to the Food and Drug Administration requesting testing of homeopathic remedies was just a start.
- We will seek to roll back the spread of exemptions to vaccination laws.
- We will continue our advocacy efforts before both the federal government and state governments to protect abortion rights and to prevent religious groups monopolizing an area’s medical care.
- We will continue to challenge pseudoscience head on, as we always have. A recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer included a crushing expose of the bogus claims of self proclaimed cancer healer Stanislaw Burzynski. Our writers and investigators will continue to bring you the evidence-backed truth on all medical matters.
What can you do? Get involved. Explore the campaign’s web page, and contact us to see how you can help us make a difference. Tell us stories of how religious extremism or pseudoscience has impacted health care for you and your family. And please give generously to help fund this campaign. Together we can stand up to these attacks on health care, and together we can win. We can succeed in keeping health care safe and secular.