No Conscience Over The Counter
the world is changing when the left -- which used to believe in
respecting choice and requiring businesses to accommodate workers'
personal preferences -- opposes choice and letting individual
workers say no to tasks they find morally abhorrent, while the
right -- which used to stand for letting businesses choose policies
that promote their bottom line -- supports laws that could force
employers to accommodate workers whose personal scruples prevent
them from selling a product.
exactly what you get as Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and other
Democrats introduce bills that would force pharmacists to sell
birth-control pills and emergency-contraception pills such as
RU-486 and Plan B, even if the pharmacist is morally opposed to
one of these forms of birth control.
here isn't hypocrisy. The issue is that these laws can present
serious consequences. Do Americans want the government to tell
a business what it has to sell?
have laws protecting pharmacists' conscientious objections. Do
employees have a right to expect legal protections that allow
them to say no to tasks to which they morally object?
can feminists -- read Boxer -- say they support "choice,"
as they conspire to outlaw the right of pharmacists to make a
choice they don't like?
question Washington rarely asks: Is this law even necessary? I
asked the American Pharmacists Association how frequently people
had trouble filling prescriptions. "We don't track that data,"
said Director of Government Relations Kristina Lunner. "Our
understanding is that it's only been a handful of circumstances."
David Sandretti answered, "We have reports of refusals in
a dozen states." Hmmmm. That could mean only a dozen people
had trouble getting a prescription filled -- and they were free
to find another pharmacy. So why make this a federal case?
say that options in rural areas aren't so available. If and where
such a problem exists, let states or family-planning organizations
provide an alternative.)
of such a law note reports that some pharmacists refused to return
a prescription to a customer so she could have it filled elsewhere,
or publicly lectured someone who went to a pharmacy expecting
pills, not a sermon. If that's true, let these consumers haul
the offender before the relevant pharmacy board, which can take
Or they could
hire a lawyer. Let me note: I am a strong believer in birth control.
That said, there is no need for a federal law -- not when cooler
heads know how to protect the rights of both consumers and pharmacists.
association has had a "conscience clause" since 1998
that allows pharmacists to not dispense prescriptions on moral
grounds. It initially allowed pharmacists, like doctors, to refuse
to dispense lethal medication under Oregon's assisted suicide
law. It also helped dissenting pharmacists refuse to dispense
lethal injection drugs for state executions. Lunner feels that
the proposed federal legislation could obliterate these personal
clause also allows pharmacists who object to dispensing birth
control, RU-486 or Plan B from doing so, but in a way that protects
the privacy rights and reasonable expectations of consumers.
a nifty association slogan: "We support pharmacists stepping
away, we do not support them stepping in the way." She added
that pharmacists should refuse consumers "seamlessly"
by getting someone else to fill a prescription or by politely
not stocking a particular drug. In sum: "We do not support
pharmacists using their role to harass patients."
If Boxer and Sen. Frank Lautenberg have their way, consumers could
force dissenting pharmacists to stock particular drugs and dispense
again, is a one-way street. Indeed, some in the anti-choice crowd
can't even support the compromise of requiring pharmacists to
find a co-worker or refer a customer to a nearby pharmacy to dispense
a disputed drug.
who has railed against the "global gag rule" -- which
prevents U.S. aid from funding family-planning groups that support
abortion -- now embraces an American gag rule for drugstores.
Explaining her opposition to the rule in an April 5 speech, Boxer
noted, "We are proud of the fact that we don't tell our citizens
what they can think, what they can say, if it's on their own dime."
means it, too -- as long as you're not a pharmacist.
2005 Creators Syndicate
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