Posted by: Paul Chiariello | February 3, 2011

Access to Health Care: On Planned Parenthood, Pot, Privacy, Prostitution and Priests

Recently the group Live Action, an organization whose mission, at least in part, is to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, surprised several of the health care facilities with a visit.  In the visit two actors posed as a pimp and his underage prostitute.  In one of the 12 clinics a health care worker consulting the couple made a number of wrong decisions in consulting and discussing options the ‘couple’ could take.  A lot of the things she did I agree were wrong and she was fired by Planned Parenthood according.  You can read more about it here.

I don’t want to discuss all the aspects of the meeting because a lot of them were wrong and should of been handled differently.  However there is one aspect that is being discussed that I need to comment on because it has much wider implications that I feel are immoral and detrimental to the physical health of our society.  That is the use of health care workers as police informants.

Quick point, I want to say that one of the big issues at stake for Live Action is the inclusion of abortion in PP’s policy of health care.  For now abortion is legal for any age, and minors at a certain age can get it so long as they ‘understand’ the issues, a very tricky and subjective notion.  But the fact that the younger the mother the more health complications, which is another provision allowing ‘underage’ abortion.   So the issue of abortion here and the PP consultant in question isn’t really an issue.   Maybe it is morally wrong and/or should be outlawed, but for now it is legitimately included in health care.  And healthcare and privacy is the issue that I want to write on.  (Furthermore, abortion services only count for 3% of the organizations health care costs.)

Now the a major claim of Live Action is that PP in the case in question “collaborated with the exploitation of young girls” and is therefore under 18 US Code 2 guilty of he crime themselves.  About this i need to make two points.

First, no, thats ridiculous.  They did not “aid, abet, counsel, command, induce or procure” the underage girls to engage in prostitution.  They merely did their job of providing health care to someone who needed it (although the particular case in question stepped over bounds in other areas).  I honestly doubt that if the girl did not receive abortion advice, STD treatment, contraception information, etc that she would give up her life as a prostitute or that her pimp would let her.  Prostitution is equally feasible to ‘commit’ without these health care provisions being available.  You simply get back alley abortions (or bastard children with prostitute mothers) and STD riddled prostitutes.  The issues at stake for people in a place in their lives where prostitution is an option aren’t the kind of people that have much choice in the matter or would be persuaded not to by less health care access.  The consultant merely did her job and in no way facilitated the pimps or prostitutes ability to continue their illicit behavior, but instead only to stay healthy. This can easily be seen by looking at a priest in confession.  If someone seeks spiritual healing and forgiveness for murder the priest is not obligated to inform the police and not guilt of murder himself if he doesn’t.  The crime would have happened.  People that murder don’t stop to ask “wait if i continue in this, I won’t be forgiven.”  Similarly, the majority of prostitutes won’t stop themselves because they won’t have access to health care.

Second, lets assume I interpret the law incorrectly and the incident cite above is aiding felons and is illegal.  Well I’d like to argue it should not be and is a disgusting law.  Requiring health care workers (spiritual or physical) to turn in to the police those who seek their help only means that those in trouble who may have reason to suspect they could risk their freedom will not go to such facilities.  You won’t be catching more bad guys, you’ll just be cutting off their access to health care. It in essence prohibits, or creates a great incentive not to, seek health care.  those who need it most are basically denied access. Of course in some cases you might be thinking great ‘let those murders suffer.’  But this ignores the vast majority of who are taken advantage of, like the underage prostitute, who will end up going to back alley physicians or ignoring their problems.  Imagine your own kid, if you have one.  They’re brought up well but try pot for the first time or get drunk at a high school party like literally 99.9% of american kids at one time or another.  They are get into a little accident, which happens when your motor skills are impaired.  What do they do?  When health care workers become police informants, what they certainly don’t do is go to the hospital.  In another case imagine a guy gets drunk and gets into a small accident resulting in a bad concussion.  He gets up and walks home because if he went to the hospital and explained he was driving drunk he’d get in trouble with the police.  That night he goes to sleep.  I’ll let you finish the story.

The association of ‘police’ and ‘prison’ with ‘health care’ creates an incentive not to go to the hospital and thus not seek any treatment leads to even worse scenarios for people that may have simply made a mistake or unfortunately don’t have much choice in their lifestyle.  For this reason I firmly believe it health care workers should be be under no obligation for becoming police informants and under a strong professional ethic not to turn over patients to the police.

Now please note, I am NOT arguing that if I murder someone I get a get out of jail free card or am in a ‘safe zone’ while at the hospital.  Only that the police should do their job and health care workers should do theirs.


  1. True. That’s a valid argument.

    About the “safe zone” in a hospital, there’s medico-legal cases that handle them.

    But definitely, you’re right when you say health workers shouldn’t be turning in sex workers to the police, and the like.

    I always wondered about a priest who heard a murder confession; thanks for clarifying that…

  2. […] issue in one of my philosophy of normative ethics classes.  However, after writing a post on the Planned Parenthood and the Pimp Controversy I have thought a little more about the issue.  Not only have I come to identify more solidly with […]

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