I know a lot of the other feminist blogs have already covered this one, but I’m finally getting around to it: “Pro-Life” pharmacies denying medical care to women around the country. You can guess what “pro-life” pharmacies do: They don’t fill scripts for birth control or emergency contraception, which means that they make it harder for women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And when you don’t have the tools to prevent pregnancy, guess what happens? You get pregnant! Since about half of unintended pregnancies end in abortion, you can thank your friendly “pro-life” pharmacist for doing his part in jacking up the abortion rate.
The pharmacy is one of a small but growing number of drugstores around the country that have become the latest front in a conflict pitting patients’ rights against those of health-care workers who assert a “right of conscience” to refuse to provide care or products that they find objectionable.
“The United States was founded on the idea that people act on their conscience — that they have a sense of right and wrong and do what they think is right and moral,” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Society, a Chicago public-interest law firm that is defending a pharmacist who was fined and reprimanded for refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills. “Every pharmacist has the right to do the same thing,” Brejcha said.
Yes, people absolutely do have a right to object to doing things they find immoral or wrong. And in places where people are legally compelled to be — school, for example — the law should not force them to do things that violate their conscience. But when you voluntarily accept a job in a particular field, you need to be able to do your job. If you’re a pharmacist, that means you need to fill prescriptions — even if you don’t like the drugs people are taking. If you’re a Scientologist who believes, for example, that it’s wrong to use anti-depressants, and you feel so strongly about that belief that you cannot justify being a part of other peoples’ use of anti-depressants, don’t be a pharmacist. If you’re a member of Fred Phelps’ church and you think AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality, and in carrying out that punishment you don’t believe that any HIV-positive people should get medication, don’t be a pharmacist. If you’re a fundamentalist Christian who believes it’s wrong to use birth control, and your belief is that it’s also wrong to allow other people to use birth control, then don’t be a pharmacist.
Hopefully you all see where I’m going with this: It’s easy to write it off as “conscience” when we’re talking about an area that has long been contentious and branded as an issue of politics rather than health care (I’m talking, of course, about women’s reproductive capacities). But the ideology behind this potentially affects all of us.
The pharmacies are emerging at a time when a variety of health-care workers are refusing to perform medical procedures they find objectionable. Fertility doctors have refused to inseminate gay women. Ambulance drivers have refused to transport patients for abortions. Anesthesiologists have refused to assist in sterilizations.
The most common, widely publicized conflicts have involved pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills, morning-after pills and other forms of contraception. They say they believe that such methods can cause what amounts to an abortion and that the contraceptives promote promiscuity, divorce, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and other societal woes. The result has been confrontations that have left women traumatized and resulted in pharmacists being fired, fined or reprimanded.
This is about much more than abortion and even birth control: It’s about the gatekeepers to health care trying to keep some of us out.
What happens if next, pharmacists or doctors refuse to serve non-Christians? Or if it comes back to bite them in the ass when, say, a conservative male Muslim paramedic refuses to touch women? Or if religious doctors and pharmacists decide that STDs are appropriate punishments for the sexually active and refuse to fill prescriptions for treatment medicine? Or if a paramedic or doctor refuses to deliver the baby of an unmarried woman?
Wingers were all up in arms about the Somali women who wanted to wear more traditional clothing to work (even though they were still doing their jobs) and the Muslim cab drivers who wouldn’t pick up passengers who had alcohol on them, but if it’s fundamentalist Christianity that’s an excuse for not doing what you were hired to do, and if it’s women you’re refusing to help, then it’s a-ok.
Religious freedom is incredibly important, and people should not be compelled to act in ways that violate their conscience or their beliefs. But that doesn’t mean that people with particular belief systems should voluntarily walk into situations that explicitly violate their beliefs and then demand accommodation. If I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and I’m drafted into a war, that’s a religious freedom issue; if I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and I voluntarily join the Army next week, it’s a little harder to then argue that I shouldn’t be required to go to Iraq because of my religious beliefs.
Pharmacists need to do their jobs. It doesn’t get a whole lot more complicated than that.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- Moral Refusal Clauses: More Than Just Contraception by Jill June 23, 2008
- Pro-lifers continue taking steps to increase the abortion rate by Jill September 12, 2007
- Pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for potentially life-saving drugs by Jill January 13, 2011
- Washington pharmacists angry that they have to do their jobs by Jill July 27, 2007
- Refusing to Provide Medical Care by Jill June 5, 2008