Today, I discovered that pharmacists in some states may refuse to sell an adult woman prescribed contraceptive medication and/or the 'morning after' pill on moral grounds.
I was and am pretty steamed about this. I went looking for news articles regarding it on Google and came across this very intelligent and sensible editorial from The Boston Glove, written back in February. It doesn't really discuss the subject of my planned rant except in passing, but I very much enjoyed what this editorial had to say.
So, on to the rant.
I do not think a pharmacist should have the right to refuse to sell me a drug legally prescribed for me by a licensed, Board-certified physician. I believe a pharmacist has the right and responsibility to question a drug that might have harmful side effects when used with other drugs concurrently prescribed for me, and I believe a pharmacist also has the right and responsibility to confirm the correct dosage of any medication prescribed for me. But do not try to silently preach your moral values to me by refusing to sell me prescribed drugs you don't believe I ought to use. That's not your job, Mr. or Ms. Pharmacist. If you don't like that, get out of the pharmaceuticals-selling business.
I personally don't believe in the selling of medicinal marijuana, even though I have glaucoma, and marijuana is one of the acknowledged drugs which can treat the condition. But just because I disagree with the use of medicinal marijuana doesn't mean I would refuse to sell it to a patient with a valid doctor's prescription for it. The doctor made the medical choice for that patient, presumably after some discussion with the patient. I know this, because I have had such discussions with doctors about drugs they have prescribed for me. If I were a pharmacist, I would therefore presume that both doctor and patient were aware of what was going on and arrived at this prescription as a mutual decision. I would not believe it to be my place to interfere with that.
I despise the term 'slippery slope,' but what will this lead to next? Will we have grocery store clerks refusing to sell cigarettes or alcoholic beverages to adults because they believe it's wrong or (in the case of Mormons) immoral to smoke or imbibe alcohol? I would think any grocery store owner would be within his rights to fire an employee who, in effect, sabotaged the store's business this way.
There is a middle ground to this above issue. As long as the pharmacy has another employee on duty who will sell patients the contraceptive medications they are prescribed, then there is no technical problem; the patient can still get her contraceptives. But what if your pharmacy is in some small Bible Belt town in which all of the pharmacists refuse to sell patients these drugs? What then?
If a pharmacy owner prefers not to sell contraceptives or RU486 or condoms at his privately-owned (not a franchise) pharmacy, I believe, in that case, as the owner of the business, he is within his rights to decide which prescription medications he will and will not sell. Patients who don't like his selection are welcome to shop at another pharmacy. Employees who think that particular business is not adequately serving patients are within their rights to seek employment at a pharmacy that does sell all prescription drugs to all people. But I think it should be an all or nothing situation. Either a pharmacy's business practice should include the sale of contraceptives--to which practice all employees must adhere--or it should not include the sale of contraceptive drugs or devices--which all employees should be made aware of before they are hired.
Also, it seems to me that someone who is against abortion and thus refuses to sell contraceptive medications, but who stands by while someone else sells them doesn't have much moral ground to stand on. "I won't sully my hands by selling The Pill, but if you want to sully your hands, I won't stop you."
Gee, I so admire that tough moral stance, there.
In the case of the pharmacy owner making this moral choice--while patients can and will go elsewhere to get their contraceptives, at least that owner has made the decision that for his business contraception or not-contraception becomes part of that drugstore's business plan and philosophy, and all employees are expected to behave in the same way; there is no ambiguity. To me, a business owner has the right to target the market he wishes to sell his product to. If he makes the decision for his entire business that he does not wish to sell to the market subset comprised of women seeking birth control, that's as much his right as it is the right of someone else to open an adult bookstore. That person too is targeting his market, and all of his employees who work there know what the business philosophy is.
To my way of thinking, one or two pharmacist employees attempting to take a moral stance by not selling contraceptives which it is the store's policy to offer is a ridiculous moral stance. The choice is not a pharmacist's to make, and when a pharmacist tries to make it, he only makes himself look like a fence-sitter, not like a real fighter against a practice that deeply offends his moral convictions.
As the editorial I linked to says: "Adoption, contraception, and compassion." Let's do it that way instead of engaging in empty moralistic posturing.