Sunday, September 11, 2005
  Conscientious Objections

The Heritage Foundation had this response, "An 'Undemocratic Tide'?", to a NYT's Op-Ed regarding the pharmacist and their rights to fill/not a prescription. The post condemns the Op-Ed for it's lack of deference to personal freedom. It begins:

Here is the summary for an op-ed published today:

Allowing pharmacists not to fill lawful prescriptions based on their own moral or religious beliefs is undemocratic.

But what if that were rewritten to make the opposite argument?

Forcing pharmacists to fill lawful prescriptions that are opposed to their own moral or religious beliefs is undemocratic.

Which rings more true to you?

More broadly speaking, our country is based upon the principles of freedom and democracy, and often the two are in tension.

I agree that it is one of the many tensions of society and freedom.

We certainly accept the idea that we can agree to disagree on many of our personal beliefs. The question is how much of our personal beliefs must we subsume to allow society to function on a basic daily level?

We have rules that govern transportation of goods and people, known as common carrier laws. The law takes away some of the rights of the carriers:

First, Of Carriers Of Passengers On Land. The duties of such carriers are
1st. those which arise on the commencement of the journey.
- 1. To carry passengers whenever they offer themselves and are ready to pay for their transportation. They have no more right to refuse a passenger, if they have sufficient room and accommodation, than an innkeeper has to refuse a guest.

The carrier gives up certain personal rights in exchange for support in collecting money owed and denial of responsibility of damage to goods, unless specifically insured for loss.

The gain for society is stability.

This is from Elizabeth Anderson of Left2Right:

The operators of a private telephone system should not be able to claim a right of religious conscience to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, so they can cut off blasphemous phone calls. The operator of an ambulance service that takes public calls, who is a Christian Scientist, may not claim a right of religious conscience to refuse to transport any emergency case to the hospital, unless it is for the treatments permitted to a Christian Scientist (bone setting, pulling an infected tooth). A Talibanesque taxi driver may not conscientiously refuse to serve women unaccompanied by male relatives, on the ground that he might thereby be facilitating their sinful consorting with the opposite sex. And similarly, a pharmacist may not claim a right of religious conscience to refuse to fill a prescription for birth control to women, or to single women, on the ground that he might thereby be facilitating the sin of fornication.

… There are some public accommodations of such vital interest to each person that each has a compelling liberty interest in unfettered access to it, without being subject to the arbitrary decisions of those who operate them. The right to operate a public accommodation is not the right to inflict one's religious beliefs on others. The pharmacist's license is a license to practice pharmacy for others, not a license to practice one's religion on others. The state, in the name of freedom, properly enforces a common carrier rule in such cases.

A question for the Heritage writer:

What about the beliefs of the truck driver who delivers RU-486 to the pharmacy?

I support extending the "Common Carrier Law" to cover pharmacists.

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