Thursday, April 14, 2005

Conscience Clauses, Part II

Sunni Maravillosa from Sunni and the Conspirators also blogged about conscience clauses (see #2 on the post), but in response to an apparent leftist rather than a right-winger.

Craig said:
2) The issue is not about pharmacists rights, but the rights of their customers. They should be free to live as they want and pharmacists through gov't regulations prevent this.
Sunni said:
2] Pharmacists' vs. customers' "rights": There's no such thing as a right to buy whatever you want from whomever you want. By Craig's reasoning a bar would have no basis for refusing to continue serving an obviously drunk customer who wants more booze. In today's lawsuit-happy environment, a bar is already liable for all kinds of potential outcomes, even after not serving an impaired customer more alcohol. If a business refuses service to anyone (for any reason, which used to be the way it was across this country -- it now seems to be limited to the west), the customer's "right" is to try to find another business to patronize.
As much as I want women to have access to birth control, I have to agree with Sunni on this one. We can't let the state be involved on either side. Like I said before, most businesses will realize it's in their best interest to require their employees to sell birth control. Pissed off customers will go somewhere else, and for a lot more than just birth control. They will likely stop patronizing the business completely.

That doesn't mean I can't be sympathetic to the scenario expressed in Aunt B's post. I very much want women everywhere to have access to birth control. So what to do about it?

Well, NARAL Pro-Choice America has an idea. You can sign their petition to the pharmacies at CVS, Eckerd, RiteAid, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens, urging them to provide prescription birth control to all women with prescriptions. I signed the petition. I don't agree with all of the language ("a third party has no right"), but since it's a non-state solution and I support its goal, I signed it anyway.

Hey, guess who responded... Wal-Mart! Here's what they told me:
Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting us at regarding women's prescriptions for birth control. Your comments and concerns are very important to us as we strive to meet your needs.

Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.

Again, we thank you for your comments regarding this issue.


Customer Service at

Okay, so I don't enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart anyway. It's just not a pleasant experience. (And that's without considering any ethical issues. My local Wal-Mart just plain sucks.) Plus, they are utter douchebags for not carrying emergency contraception. (They have the right to be douchebags, but still...) Emergency contraception does not cause abortion, and in fact has the ability to prevent thousands of abortions each year. That's something I care about! A "pro-lifer" should care about that too, no? But I've digressed...

The only thing I give Wal-Mart credit for is their policy to find another pharmicist to fill the prescription. It's a pain in the ass for sure, but at least they're not confiscating it.

Which brings me to my last point -- I would support legislation that bars pharmacists from confiscating a prescription. That's someone else's property, and even though a woman hands it to a pharmacist, she has a reasonable expectation that the prescription will be filled. I mean, isn't that what pharmicists do?

Right-on Red. I’m not currently in the market for contraception, but I am concerned about the ever increasing desire to use the government as a blunt object to beat individuals and businesses into submission. I think there is plenty of room to allow hyper-moralists to sell only what they want; the same is true for adult toy stores. The pharmacies in question will simply either take the financial loss or change their policy. This really ought to be a matter for the market to decide.
Red, you have, as usual, hit on something I hadn't thought about in my post (which is why I'm no economist nor social activist)--if pharmacists at, say, Walmart behave in a way we find upsetting, even if they don't behave that way to us, we can let Walmart (or other pharmacies) know that we're through with them.

So, even if some woman's only feasible choice is Walmart and some dumb-ass pharmacist--even if she can't afford a total boycott of Walmart for all of her prescriptions--those of us who can make other choices, who have more than one option, should.
I have to disagree with you on this one drumgurl, for several reasons:

1. We're not talking about frivolous products here, but medical prescriptions necessary for one's health. Pharmacies should be required to have at least one pharmacist on duty at all hours of their businesses operation in order to fill all legal prescriptions, or have their pharmacy license pulled. This is a public health and public safety issue, and as such, the state has an interest in protecting the public.

2. Transportation is a big problem in many areas of the country. The coy "oh, we'll help you get this scrip filled across town" isn't going to help a woman who rode the bus to get her scrip filled, and the bus service ends before her chance to get across town. There are many other cities that have no bus service at all. The woman who walked a mile to get her scrip filled probably does not have the time in her day to walk another five miles to the next pharmacy. Again, I don't think it's asking too much for a business that is licensed to sell medicine to be required to have at least one person on board during hours of operation that is willing to fill all prescriptions. And yeah, there is the pesky issue of certain pharmacies being the only game in town for a thirty mile (or more) radius.

3. Most insurance plans require that a person use a specific pharmacy or pharmacies; it is entirely possible that a person could be left without a way to afford their prescription, even if they could theoretically access another nearby pharmacy. I'm allergic to several classes of antibiotics. I have insurance, which means I get to pay $15. If I had to pay out of my own pocket for the more unusual prescriptions I require to battle infection, it would cost me over $100.

4. The idea that there is a natural force in 'competition' that is a leveller amongst businesses is bogus. It sure didn't (and doesn't) work that way in regards to racism and sexism. Businesses are run by people, with all of their foibles. People do not always operate in a rational manner. Some of them insist on racism and sexism, highly irrational forms of behavior that not only have a high cost to society at large, but have a high cost to those businesses that practice them....and I'm not talking about lawsuits, but the everyday losses incurred by the refusal to treat their female and of color employees and customers equally and with respect. It costs them. They don't care. And if there are enough businesses in the area that operate in the same manner, that will be the status quo. Laws were needed to battle racism and sexism, and unfortunately laws are needed to get our damn prescriptions filled.

I am all for Gov. Rod Blagojevich taking the hard line here in Illinois. This is a public health issue. Fuck pharmacies that aren't concerned with women's health. Maybe they'll get concerned if their license is yanked. This isn't any different from a lunch counter refusing to serve black folks...keep your sorry racist ass at home if you can't serve everyone!
Nicely put, La Lubu. I would only add that Red's take on all of this means (if I read her right) that the state NEVER ought to have control over this stuff, even if it is in the interest of public health and safety. This is where libertarianism seems counterintuitive, at least to me...
Here is yet another very important little facet concerning this business of religious, right-wing pharmacy activism...ok, scratch that...idiots not handing out legal prescriptions:

What the hell happens when they don't give you back your prescription?!

Forget the voyage to another pharmacy for the lucky ones that have a way to get there or one to go to! Now, you don't even have the slip of paper. Now what? That is what is happening out there! Take a nice long look at Atwood's The Hand Maid's Tale, for possible coming attractions.
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