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Wilmerding: Where Eagles Dare

Extending a cautious oar early 7 August, I prepared to rotate. Cawing over my shoulder betrayed crows chasing an eagle. Dense fog precluded sight. Facing shore, I paused.


An eagle alighted, its body invisible against the dark fir, its head bright. Another cried from a nearby madrone, its red trunk and green leaves saturated in color on the grey day.

Silence. We eyed each other for several minutes. I floated onward, the birds remained. That evening another head shone bright against green madrone leaves, body dark in silhouette against a setting sun.

Cecile Richards addressed Planned Parenthood supporters in Bellingham. Clad in black, her broken arm in black cast accentuated her slim figure and razor sharp observations on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. Denying contraception mandated in the Affordable Care Act has profound implications for women, “placing them back in the fifties” with respect to civil rights and equal access.

As corporations do not eat, bleed, feel pain or die, extending personhood is flawed theory. Citing freedom of religion under the First Amendment to deny women medical options is as perverted as Citizens United & McCutcheon’s citing freedom of speech to allow unlimited donations to electoral candidates from domestic and foreign business.

First Amendment interpretation becomes grotesque when Guantánamo Bay prisoners demand their right to pray citing Hobby Lobby precedent: the Justice Department deems them “not persons” and denies them religious protection.

In context of her injury in a Boston scuffle after the decision’s announcement, I recalled Cecile’s compliment to islanders for their welcome on a glorious fall evening in October 2012. No security necessary with orcas breaching behind her, she addressed access to reproductive health across the country and on island.

I voted with islanders to subsidize a hospital on San Juan Island. Never did I anticipate being afraid to use what appears to be a community hospital. Ethical and Religious Directives (ERDs) mean religious belief governs care, not science.

Should I connive with a local health provider to access legal, medical services, knowing that that person could be fired or lose admitting privileges under ERD policies? No. Rather than self censor, I discovered many independent health care providers in the County and secular facilities on the mainland.

Jobs are essential in a rural county with only one hospital. Whether in a fog of illness or moral conflict consider:

Should my spouse have a terminal illness and wish to exercise his options under Death with Dignity provisions, my family could be bankrupted because Catholic policy would keep him on life support. His Advanced End of Life Directive would be ignored if it “conflicts with hospital policy, law or the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care. “ That Peacehealth Whatcom Region policy is posted on our County Hospital District website without amendment for our community is troubling.

Should our teenagers need access to full reproductive care, Planned Parenthood opposite the Post Office will provide it, not PeaceHealth which takes almost 15% of property tax dollars on San Juan Island for 50 years. Males are Planned Parenthood’s fastest growing population.

Should I have an accident or become sick being unable to think or be coherent is part of the problem. Whatever my age or condition, I find the prospect of being taken to an ERD facility terrifying.

I support the premise that each islander has autonomy and access to science-based, best-medical practice under the Affordable Care Act, Washington State laws and the US Constitution. Scion of evangelical royals hosted at the Ford, Reagan and Bush Whitehouses, Frank Schaeffer came full circle after crafting their prolife political plank. Absent imposition of rigid ideology, he came to recognize abortions decrease with open access to full reproductive care. He supported Obama in 2008, because families prosper with diverse, medical and social programs.

I want employment and health care available to islanders. As we voted the facility in, we can vote it out. What Peace Island Medical Center delivers is not in accord with state and federal law or voter expectations. Until such time as PIMC complies with equal access and best medical practice, could we:

1) Ask our Hospital Board to support citizens and elected officials in their determination not to fund a religious agenda.

2) Ask our EMS to honor requests not to be delivered to ERD facilities.

3) Ask our Town Council to rescind approval of zoning for remaining portions of PeaceHealth property. About half the twenty-acre parcel annexed to Friday Harbor is undeveloped; the annexation creates wealth for the institution at taxpayer expense like paying for our EMS mortgage.

4) Ask our Tax Assessor to delay and deny State property tax abatements, including retroactive ones.

5) Ask our County Treasurer to hold all property taxes related to PeaceHealth in escrow.

6) Ask our County Board of Health to exercise direction over the Hospital District and PeaceHealth to treat all patients with the full gamut of modern medicine.

7) Ask our County Council and legislators to demand state agencies stop discrimination now occurring in nearly 50% of all Washington State hospitals. Since secular hospitals cost less, economics alone demand support of public facilities.

Early Americans revolted against taxation without representation. Cecile Richards exhorts: “We can’t afford any more folks, justices on the Supreme Court who are so out of touch with women’s needs, women’s healthcare and women’s rights. I think this is a clarion call for women and men who care about women’s health to make sure they vote this November.” Please vote Tuesday, the fourth.

Gay Wilmerding

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