Pharmacists and Conscience: Close But No Cigar

You have to give these liberal feminists credit: they’re nothing if not persistent.

Pharmacists who have moral reservations about selling contraception has been an ongoing discussion in the blogosphere for a few weeks now, initially spurred on by a Montana pharmacist.

It continues with the submission of SB 164 in the South Dakota legislature, which would force pharmacists to dispense contraception regardless of their moral convictions. I’ve blogged on this and had ongoing cross-blog discussions about it with the DakotaWomen. Jon Schaff at South Dakota Politics blogged on it earlier today, and I followed up with another entry related to his.

My latest entry posed the analogy of whether, in like fashion, we would sanction passing a law to force a Jewish or Muslim grocer to sell pork to customers, since both have religious objections to pork.

Well, here Anna at DakotaWomen has me…or so she thinks.

Anna points to a story from MSNBC that says a Target store in Minneapolis has moved Muslim cashiers who had religious objections about ringing up pork to other jobs in the store.

I think that’s great that Target was so accommodating to both their customers and their employees, but there are some key differences here.

First, there are some very significant vocational differences in jobs as cashier and pharmacist. Cashiers require little training (I know, I’ve worked as one), whereas pharmacists must get a degree in pharmacology, usually have to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam, and be licensed to be a pharmacist. You can’t shift a pharmacist to the stock room and keep things on an even par.

More importantly, it’s within the employer’s discretion what to do with an employee who can’t do their job. In the case of Target, they chose to move the employee to another area or another store. If they couldn’t perform the work, they might have had to let them go. Me, I wouldn’t apply for a job that required me to ring up alcohol sales, because I find that morally objectionable, and while it might be nice if an employer gave me an exception, it’s not something I’d expect or demand.

If a pharmacist is employed by a business that believes contraceptives should be dispensed by that pharmacist, then it’s the owner’s call whether to move him somewhere else in the organization, or let him go. It’s the employer’s call, no one elses.

But if the pharmacist runs his own shop, as many pharmacists do, it’s HIS call whether to sell the product or not.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, I saw no discussion in the article about passing a law to force the Muslim employees to sell pork to customers. And that is probably the most despicable aspect of this discussion, and of SB 164 in particular.

We are not talking about a job requirement outlined by an employer, we are talking about using the power of the law, the force of government, to impose one person’s morality on another. SB 164 would use the power of government to force a person to either violate their conscience or walk away from a job they’ve spent years (and considerable money) training for, getting certified for, and getting licensed for. This is regardless of whether the pharmacist owns his own shop, or whether his employer agrees with him or makes other accommodation for him. The law says YOU WILL sell this product to customers whether you like it or not.

I know liberals have difficulty seeing the difference between government power and obligations, and private decisions and freedoms. But they are very large and distinct, and it’s why our nation was founded on the principle of limited government and maximum personal freedom.

In private, free environments, we’re all free to make decisions according to our value systems…and we live with the natural consequences. For the pharmacist who owns his own shop and won’t sell birth control, he may deal with the consequence of losing the birth control customer’s business for that product, and perhaps other products. The pharmacy owner has the freedom to decide whether his establishment will sell contraceptives, and if a pharmacist employee objects to selling birth control, he may need to live with the natural consequences and find another job. But remember: the business OWNER OWNS the business, and it’s his call. Government isn’t forcing anything on anyone here.

That’s where it all changes when the government gets involved. People can and should exercise their freedom to make decisions about their values, and of course there are sometimes natural consequences. But when the government steps in and mandates an action by law, freedom is quashed.

No one is forcing a customer who can’t get birth control from a certain pharmacist to do anything or believe anything; nothing is being imposed on the customer, and the customer has lost no freedom, only ACCESS (which they might not have anyway, if the pharmacy was sold out, or if there was no pharmacy within 60 miles). But SB 164 would impose a control, a loss of freedom, and a loss of discretion of conscience upon the pharmacist who has a moral objection to selling this product.

Again, this isn’t about providing more freedom to a customer seeking birth control (at best it could provide more ACCESS, but not more freedom), but is instead about imposing a different morality on the objecting pharmacist and restricting his freedom.

Remember here that we’re not talking about life-saving medication, it’s not needed immediately to prevent death or serious bodily harm, and can be obtained at another pharmacy or through the mail.

So still no dice, Anna, but at least you’re thinking. And that’s good. Try thinking harder about who’s being forced into something here, who’s morality is being imposed on whom, and about the implications of forcing someone to violate their conscience. Do we really want doctors, cops, firemen, cashiers, and pharmacists who exercise no moral conscience?

I still wonder why these liberals are so desperate to force someone to bend to their sense of morality (or lack thereof)…

4 Responses to “Pharmacists and Conscience: Close But No Cigar”

  1. “But when the government steps in and mandates an action by law, freedom is quashed.”

    I agree, which is why I’m pro-choice.

  2. Let’s see…

    We are to fight for “pro-choice”, unless “pro-choice” involves one whose “choice” is not to be involved in birth control or abortion?

  3. So, Anna, you agree then that hte unborn child should have the choice of whether to live or not, then?

    Because an unborn child isn’t a part of the mother’s body. It is a unique person, with it’s own beating heart and own DNA that makes it distinct from the mother. The mother can choose to cut out a tumor or get her ear pierced, but she doesn’t have the right to extinguish the life of another human being.

  4. “Everything is politics.”-Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

    The difference between Anna and those of us who are pro-life is simply at what point do we grant a unique human the status of “personhood.” I say at conception, a proponent of abortion would probably say at birth (give of take a week or two as suggested by James Watson of DNA fame).

    The difference then is in the former case there is a clearly definable point at which we can call the new human a person, with full Constitutional rights. In the latter case, we have to ignore biology and assign an arbitrary point of personhood that is subject to change according to the vagaries of the times..

    The choice is simple for me, from a biological viewpoint as well as morally.