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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Lithwick on Acts of Conscience

Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate is one of my very favorite legal commentators.  In this article, she discusses the issue raised by Dan of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives.

Her conclusions:

Patients cannot have their expectations of timely, professional service undermined by unanticipated bursts of conscientious objection. That's why the counterproposals under consideration in at least four other states grappling with reluctant pharmacists seem eminently reasonable: Such laws would require druggists to fill all prescriptions unless they can find alternatives that don't inconvenience the patient. This is essentially the mechanism created earlier this month when Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich filed a 150-day emergency rule requiring drugstores to either fill prescriptions or otherwise accommodate their patients.

These solutions don't force individual pharmacists to undermine their personal religious views. They do place high costs on the drugstores, which would now need to implement fixes such as posted warnings, agreements with other pharmacies, and the hiring of extra pharmacists, even if they can ill afford it. If an individual service provider wants to reserve the right to deny services, they should be free to do so, and if a drugstore wants to employ such a person, they should also do so.

It sounds to me like a reasonable compromise.

Posted by Hillel Levin on April 14, 2005 at 12:53 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Amos: because it's not the point, is it? Assume we're talking about a man's right to birth control or interstate travel.

It's not clear to me that a private party refusing to facilitate something that the government cannot restrict (such as travel, or birth control) violates anyone's rights. Lithwick appears to assume that it does.

Posted by: gst | Apr 15, 2005 7:49:00 PM

A pharmacist who works for himself can decide anything he wants. A company that wants to give pharmacists free reign over their actions is welcome to do so. A pharmacist who works for me and refuses to perform his job duties gets fired on the spot.

Posted by: roysol | Apr 15, 2005 11:20:39 AM

qst: Why would you "put aside issues of gender discrimination" in either interstate bus travel or the provision of contraceptives?

Posted by: amosanon1 | Apr 15, 2005 9:29:58 AM

I just hope that no laws pop up requiring pharmacies to employ people who refuse to prescribe RU-486.

Posted by: Lucas Wiman | Apr 15, 2005 1:31:56 AM

Does someone really have a "legal right" to be provided with birth control, as Lithwick implies (currently, "religious objections of the pharmacist can trump the mother's legal rights.")? Sure, the government can't prevent someone from selling or using birth control, but I don't see how you get from there to a right to have someone provide you with it.

How about this analogy: We have a right to interstate travel. The owners of several bus lines, however, believe, for whatever reason, that young women shouldn't be permitted to travel unaccompanied and refuse to sell tickets to a young woman without a chaperone to accompany her. Putting aside issues of gender discrimination, public accommodations laws, etc., does the bus company's refusal violate the young woman's right to interstate travel?

Posted by: gst | Apr 14, 2005 8:19:59 PM

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