piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
yesterday i read about a pharmacist at a missouri target refusing to fill a prescription for emergency contraception. contrary to [livejournal.com profile] king_tirian, my boycott of target until they stop weaseling, and state a corporate policy of resisting faith-based customer service wouldn't do much good; there is no target around here, and i am not currently visiting the US.

while looking into this case, i've also learned that the USA's largest pharmacy chain, CVS, has instituted a policy allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on the basis of "deeply held personal beliefs" (which i just bet is code for "fundamentalist christian beliefs").

this is wrong. here's a suggestion for people whose deeply held personal beliefs seem to extend to pushing them on other people when they're in need of medication: get another job. surely the pro-life movement would love to have you work for them in some capacity. and to those companies who give such people the time of day because you don't want to alienate the fundies: just you wait until those of us who usually live and let live start to exert similar pressures.

it's ridiculous. would it be reasonable for a vegetarian to work at burger king and refuse to serve any customer who orders a whopper, or another meat-containing dish? the person would get fired faster than you could say "2 weeks notice". maybe a muslim worker at the 7-11 should have the right to refuse to sell you any fast food during daytime hours of ramadan? how about the orthodox jewish salesperson at sears who won't sell you anything on saturdays. would you like that? why should we make special exceptions for fundamentalist christians? why should their deeply held beliefs count for more?

a modern democracy should not just stand for freedom of religion, it should also stand for freedom from religion.

on 2005-10-22 04:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] the-siobhan.livejournal.com
I had an argument in a community where everybody else was insisting that having paid good money to go to school and study pharmacology, they had a right to a job in the field.


on 2005-10-22 06:54 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] king-tirian.livejournal.com
Actually, the CVS article was talking about a year-old case even when the article was written six months ago. CVS is actually on our side to the best of my research. (http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/fillmypillsnow_good) I don't know when I'll regain health care and find myself popping Celexa again, but they'll fill my presriptions when they do. Had been doing it at Wegmans, but right now standing on the fence is not sufficient for my direct pharmecutical business.

This might be one of those USA USA USA things, but I support the right of the individual to defy a corporate rule rather than silently taking off one's apron and leaving the career behind. Civil disobedience has a long and proud tradition here and it has probably brought us more liberty than repression when you add it all up. To give a specific example, gay marriage is on track to be declared legal in New York because a few court clerks decided to issue licenses in clear violation of precedent and the lawsuit to invalidate those licenses has been rejected at every step on the ladder.

So the existence of a pharmacist who doesn't believe in dispensing X, Y, or Z doesn't unduly alarm me (as long as they're not sneaking into the supply cabinet and replacing all the EC with Tic Tacs). My beef is with Eckerd and Target for having situations in which there are three pharmacists on duty and NONE of them feel like doing the job. Put one Scientologist pharmacist on the shift that doesn't mind dispensing contraceptives but won't touch the antidepressants and we don't have a crisis anymore.

To be geeky, if you are a businessowner who sticks that apothecary shingle outsite your store, you just published an interface and you need to guarantee that it is met. Moreover, I have the right to be spared the implementation details, *especially* if it is a kludge.

on 2005-10-22 07:10 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trelana.livejournal.com
... Wegmans! Oh G-d, how I miss Wegmans.

I'm at the point of having to renew my Costco membership to getmy prescriptions filled there (I've let it lapse since I don't really have the $50/year for it), since there's nowhere else locally without an explicit statement of support against such discrimination. I do need to see about the stances of some of the locally-owned pharmacies first, though, but if I can't, I'd rather pay the extra $50/year and know I'm supporting a company with reasonable policies (hell, they're not even progressive policies, it's a shame that we've been reduced to this point) than save it and shop somewhere more convenient.

on 2005-10-22 21:43 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
hm. i appreciate this position to some degree, because i am all for the rights of the individual. however, those rights do stop at my procreative tract (among other body parts), and i don't want people to feel encouraged to extend them. this sort of thing encourages them.

if you are against birth control, by all means, don't take any. but refusing it to me isn't primarily about your rights, it's about mine.

i also appreciate the position of the business owner who might easily look at the logistics of accomodating all those different "deeply held personal beliefs" and feel overwhelmed (because you know once this becomes accepted, all sorts of deeply held beliefs are gonna come out of the woodwork). your idea breaks down as soon as somebody on that perfectly balanced shift gets sick suddenly. it breaks down for small businesses who only have one person on shift at a time. and how do you want to implement hiring people with this in mind? do you really want business owners to interview prospective employees about their religious beliefs? because without knowing, how can the perfect shift be planned? and once you allow that, would you think it's ok to refuse to hire somebody based on those beliefs? i don't know that i see more liberty coming towards us with that approach. i think we're quite well off with hiring decisions being made without grilling us on private matters (which religion is to me).

(yes, i knew the CVS story was a year+ old, but nothing popped up contradicting it, though my search terms might have been too narrow. thanks for the pointer; i'll look into it more deeply.)

on 2005-10-22 23:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] king-tirian.livejournal.com
As you have seen by now, I went back to my own journal (http://www.livejournal.com/users/king_tirian/59613.html) to speak at greater length since it was long and personal at the same time that you were writing this.

I think that we should deal with breakdowns in the same sort of way that we do with similar sorts of things. If someone drops the F-bomb on broadcast radio without bleeping, then there is an FCC invesigation and a fine. I can see the same sort of thing happening for an errant pharmacy, except that it would be the FTC. Line up enough $2000 fines and Target will figure out how to recruit some of its scientifically-based pharmacists to move to the heartland and fill the key shifts.

How to deal with interviewing people about their beliefs? Here I think that it's valuable to having some sort of formal system like the conscientious objector status that I mentioned in my journal. Then an employer can hire and compensate an employee based not on what they beleive but on the level of utility that they pledge to offer the team. It doesn't seem much different from a software engineer who says in an interview that they categorically won't work nights and weekends or won't travel.

on 2005-10-22 04:28 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] xiphias.livejournal.com
how about the orthodox jewish salesperson at sears who won't sell you anything on saturdays.

An Orthodox Jew cannot work on Saturdays.

Now, frankly, I feel that in a fair society, most jobs should be flexible enough to allow someone to have a work schedule that doesn't include Saturdays, or have some meal flexibility so that, during one month of the year, you can get your meal break REALLY close to sunset, and so forth.

Here's the thing: a Muslim worker really doesn't give a shit if YOU eat during Ramadan. An Orthodox Jew couldn't give a flying fuck if YOU'RE shopping on Saturday.

Somehow, it's only the Fundamentalist Christians who give a shit what YOU'RE doing with YOU'RE medications.

on 2005-10-22 04:51 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
An Orthodox Jew cannot work on Saturdays.

i know. that's why zie wasn't selling anything. :) sorry. it wasn't the best example. i should have come up with a kashrut one instead.

and while i sometimes feel like your last paragraph is true, i sure don't want to live under fundamentalist muslim rule either.

on 2005-10-22 05:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] xiphias.livejournal.com
I think this is where we Jews have the benefit of being used to being a minority. A truly strict Orthodox Jew can't even gain benefit from selling a mixture of meat and milk, so does have a moral obligation to refuse to sell cheeseburgers to people. But, because we've been a minority for so long, we pretty much figure that that means that it's our job to not work at McDonald's.

Of course, historically, when you look at places where Jews were a majority, you do start to find shit quite analagous to this stuff -- Jews beating people up for the temerity of asking for a cheeseburger or some such thing like that. Okay, maybe not that specifically, but same kind of thing.

on 2005-10-22 14:48 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] pperiwinkle.livejournal.com
a modern democracy should not just stand for freedom of religion, it should also stand for freedom from religion.


I wish I had more time to address this, but I believe this is the greatest danger facing the USA. I live in a part of the country that is saturated with bible blindness, and it scares me. It scares me more than bird flu, terrorism, and global warming.

And what is even more frightening is how normally sensible people get sucked into it. Right here, in his reply King Tirian says he thinks a pharmacist SHOULD have the right to refuse to fill a prescription. Of course, he weasels it by saying there should be another pharmacist on duty to fill the prescription, but he still sees nothing wrong in allowing a complete stranger to force his personally held religious views into my personal medical decisions. KMD argues on ssm recently that a deity-neutral environment in a science classroom promotes atheism and shouldn't be allowed.

It's insanity. How do you counter insanity?

on 2005-10-22 20:42 (UTC)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] firecat
[*tempted to get a pharmacist job at CVS so I can refuse to dispense viagra*]

on 2005-10-22 23:39 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] klwalton.livejournal.com
I love the way your mind works :).

on 2005-10-24 17:27 (UTC)
snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] snippy
GMTA, it was the first thing I thought of.

on 2005-10-22 21:47 (UTC)
ckd: small blue foam shark (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] ckd
I'm willing to bet that in almost every case, the same store that has a pharmacist who wants to practice medicine on the side also sells tobacco products. Y'know, poison. "Conscience" my ass.

on 2005-10-22 22:17 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] lizw.livejournal.com
I'm not sure about this one. It seems wrong to me to say that someone with those views should not be able to work at a store for whom emergency contraception must be a very small part of its sales. It would be a different matter if they took a job in a family planning clinic, where it would be a far larger part of their daily routine. Similarly, it would be ridiculous for a doctor with similar views to take a job in an abortion clinic and then refuse to carry out abortions, but I do support the right of doctors who choose a more general practice to refuse to carry them out (this sometimes becomes an issue because some training hospitals insist that all trainee doctors should carry out abortions as a mandatory part of training, even if they have no intention of doing so after qualification). I think the right solution is for the pharmacist to refer the patient to a colleague and for the store to have the responsibility of making sure the prescription gets filled, just as I think that Orthodox Jews should have a legally-protected right not to work on Shabbat (ideally, I would deal with this by allowing everyone, religious or not, to nominate any 24-hour period in the week when they would be guaranteed time off) and it should be up to the store to ensure that they hire sufficient Christians, Muslims, atheists or whatever to enable them to open on Saturdays.

on 2005-10-24 03:55 (UTC)
brooksmoses: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] brooksmoses
My take on the issue is that I don't see where it is necessarily different than, say, the Chik-Fil-A (or however it's proplerly misspelled) chicken-sandwich fast-food restaurants that are all over the U.S. southeast, and which are not open on Sundays for religious reasons.

In both cases, the corporation is making a choice to honor the requirements of a specific religion -- the chicken place rather more blatantly than the drugstore, but similar. Except that the chain store is being very up-front and clear about the fact that it is doing this based on the views of one particular religion, and there's none of this "they're not really treating all religions equally" and "the store isn't doing it all the time" sort of conceptual fog that is obscuring the issue with the drugstores.

I don't think it's the government's place to say that it is not ok for a chicken-sandwich place -- or even a whole chain of hundreds of chicken-sandwich places -- to close on Sundays for religious reasons.

I want to see a reasonable consideration of what makes drugstores different from chicken-sandwich places before I'm willing to claim that it's the government's place to dictate what services a drugstore must provide.

on 2005-10-24 04:23 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
they're closed for everyone. i don't have much of a problem with that (though i do have some, and, like liz, i think individual employees ought to have a choice of which 24-hour period they want to take off instead of being forced into the majority religion's day of rest. i do realise that i places where said majority religion is seriously practiced by many people, a store might not gain enough by being open on that day of rest). i am, in general, against elevating sunday over other days of the week, and i am glad the government stopped mandating closure on sundays.

the more important part to me is that people can manage their lives just fine without chik-fil-a. doing so without a specific medication is quite another thing.

my inflammatory reply to your last patagraph is that it's the government's place to dictate what services a drugstore must provide because otherwise blacks would still not be allowed to stand next to whites at that same drugstore, i bet. too many smallminded bigots have made life miserable in small towns for too many people who were different, for me to leave this sort of thing up to their magnanimity. if they want to get a business license, they ought to damn well provide all the legal services that can be provided.

on 2005-10-24 04:58 (UTC)
brooksmoses: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] brooksmoses
I agree -- mostly. (For what it's worth, Chik-Fil-A is definitely not in the "not gaining enough by being open on Sundays" category -- though there is an interesting sidetrack down the fact that they might well be in a position of either having to either close on Sunday or else have people working on Sunday who would prefer not to for religious reasons but don't feel they can afford not to, simply because if one takes the "prefer not to for religious reasons" people out, there aren't enough left to mind the store.)

The main reason for my last paragraph was not to say that there were no such reasons, merely that I hadn't thought of any that convinced me. Yours is definitely part of one, I think -- though "all the legal services that can be provided" is (obviously) absurd if one doesn't put a category-limit on it, and I'm not completely sure where the category limits ought to fall. For instance, is it appropriate for a drugstore to say, "we don't carry that drug because we only have room to stock the thousand most common ones"? Is there a standard complete list of drugs that most drugstores carry, that would form a reasonable basis for a requirement? (What if they happen to run out of something? I know drugstores do that on occasion, and while it's a difference of intent, it's not a difference in effect, and it's hard to legislate differences of intent rather than effect.)

I do think it's quite reasonable to legislate that a drugstore or chicken sandwich place cannot discriminate on whom it chooses to serve, though, and must provide the same services to everyone. (With said legislation likely needing reasonable exemptions to allow shopkeepers to tell genuinely obnoxious people to get out of their store, without their having to fill out paperwork documenting the obnoxiousness.) And for the cases where it is specific discrimination such as only providing birth control medication to married people, I think it's fairly clearly wrong.

State law rules pharmacies...

on 2005-10-24 17:40 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] prairierabbit.livejournal.com
The reality in the U.S. is that for the most part regulation of pharmacists is up to the states (as is medical licensure), and some states have passed "conscience" laws which specifically allow pharmacists (and doctors) the right to refuse to proscribe/fill prescriptions based on their personal beliefs. For details:


I'm glad that in Illinois we have a law requiring pharmacies to fill legal prescriptions.

As for targeting specific stores, if their policy is designed to comply with state law, then I would not feel comfortable blaming the stores. The bigger fight will have to happen on the state level. I just wish I was more optimistic about the outcome.


piranha: red origami crane (Default)
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