Casey Mattox

Scimio immediately saw the threat to his conscience and called the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom. With the support of Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies, Scimio challenged Blagojevich’s emergency rule. But the court deemed the case moot when Albertsons said it would accommodate him, defending Scimio from Blagojevich. Unfortunately, Albertsons resolve began to crack months later, and Scimio again found his ability to serve his patients imperiled.

Refusing to cave to Blagojevich’s demands that he violate his conscience, but discouraged by the war on conscience in Ilinois, Scimio instead moved to a state and position where his conscience would be protected. He lives and practices today with his family in Pennsylvania.

What did Illinois gain by Blagojevich’s action? Did the “emergency rule” result in expanded access to Plan B? No. It resulted in the loss of (at least) one conscientious pharmacist who competently provided Chicago area patients with a full range of pharmaceuticals with a single exception. Pennsylvania gained an excellent and consciencious pharmacist (and family).

Government compulsion of individuals to violate their conscience is unconstitutional and immoral. But it’s also dumb. It is built on the flawed premise that if government tells someone to act in a way that they believe to be immoral that they will ultimately cave.

In other words, it is built on a flawed understanding of what conscience is. Those who would compel their fellow citizens to assist in or pay for abortions or similar deeply divisive acts act as though conscientious objectors merely have a philosophical disagreement—a difference of opinion they should be able to set aside when what’s really important (their paycheck) is threatened. A survey of faith-based medical professionals showed how erroneous this understanding of conscience is. More than 9 out of every 10 said, “I would rather stop practicing medicine altogether than be forced to violate my conscience.”

Fortunately for medical professionals of conscience like Scimio, and the patients they serve, there remain places in this country where they can practice their profession without the heavy hand of government seeking to compel them to alter their values.

Supporters of anti-conscience laws like to imagine a doctor who won’t perform abortions in some remote part of Alaska or west Texas, citing this as a reason to compel violations of conscience. Of course, they never limit the laws to those situations but instead apply them with fervor to professionals like Scimio who are literally surrounded by colleagues who don’t have the same moral objections.

But even assuming that hypothetical situation, compelling a doctor with a conscientious objection to perform abortions in rural Alaska won’t increase access to abortion there. It is far more likely to reduce access to every other service—including every women’s health service—as that doctor packs up his practice and moves to a place where his conscience is respected.

As Scimio’s story shows, conscience cannot be purchased as cheaply as the abortion industry pretends. And those states that respect it will benefit. Congratulations to the legal teams with ACLJ and the Becket Fund that ultimately prevailed against Blagojevich’s rule and brought that respect back to Illinois as well.

Casey Mattox

Casey Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom