Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hello, right wing government. Goodbye, womens' rights.

(I'll admit that this post will seem kind of hurried since, well, it was. Sometimes, good grammar takes a back seat to expediency.)

Just in case you had any thoughts of having a good day, you should check out this article over at DailyKos (and, of course, the original yahoo article over here):

For a year, Julee Lacey stopped in a CVS pharmacy near her home in a Fort Worth suburb to get refills of her birth-control pills. Then one day last March, the pharmacist refused to fill Lacey's prescription because she did not believe in birth control.

"I was shocked," says Lacey, 33, who was not able to get her prescription until the next day and missed taking one of her pills. "Their job is not to regulate what people take or do. It's just to fill the prescription that was ordered by my physician."

Some pharmacists, however, disagree and refuse on moral grounds to fill prescriptions for contraceptives. And states from Rhode Island to Washington have proposed laws that would protect such decisions.

Man, there is so much wrong with this story, it's hard to know where to start. First, the Yahoo article writes that:

"Mississippi enacted a sweeping statute that went into effect in July that allows health care providers, including pharmacists, to not participate in procedures that go against their conscience."

Now, that phrasing is wonderfully generic and all-encompassing, when we all know that it refers to one thing and one thing only: prescriptions for birth control or those related in any way to family planning. To talk about it as if it's just there to protect the delicate sensibilities of pharmacists from any of a myriad of potential scrips they might have to fill is rubbish -- this sort of thing is targeted at birth control and only birth control. It's just being gussied up to sound more universal, but no one should be fooled. I mean, do you really think any of these folks are going to balk at filling scrips for painkillers? Or erectile dysfunction drugs? I didn't think so. This kind of behaviour is aimed squarely at womens' rights, and no one should be allowed to tap dance around that.

The next issue is whether the pharmacist in question is taking a personal stand, or whether this is now store policy, or even nationwide chain policy. After all, in 1999, Wal-Mart stores simply decided not to carry the emergency contraceptive drug Preven. If that's what you're up against, well, you're pretty well shit out of luck. But, hey. It just gets worse.

A number of comments at DailyKos suggest that outraged consumers boycott such stores. Man, that is a bad idea at a number of different levels. In some cases, you can't just take your prescription to another pharmacy. In some cases, this may be the only convenient pharmacy within miles, and it's just not realistic to say, hey, vote with your wallet, go elsewhere.

The bigger problem with the idea of a boycott is that, philosophically, a boycott is used to focus attention on someone who is doing something within their rights, but it's such odious or unfair behaviour that you want to do something about it. To boycott such stores is to implicitly accept that they have the right to do this, and that's exactly what you shouldn't be doing. The consumer's position should be, instead, to demand that the store fulfill its moral, ethical (and legal?) obligation to fill any prescriptions that come its way, as members of the medical profession. A boycott is just enabling them to keep doing what they're doing, and that's not the way to deal with this. But there's a couple more things in that article that are intensely disturbing.

From the Yahoo article:

In the Madison case, pharmacist Neil Noesen, 30, after refusing to refill a birth-control prescription, did not transfer it to another pharmacist or return it to the woman. She was able to get her prescription refilled two days later at the same pharmacy, but she missed a pill because of the delay.

Now, pardon my French but, what the fucking hell?!?! The pharmacist took the scrip, refused to fill it, refused to give it to someone else to fill, and refused to give it back? That's not an act of conscience -- that's theft. Rather than complain, the consumer should have quietly walked out of the store, pulled out her cell phone, called the police and told them that someone had just stolen her prescription and she wanted to lay charges. And if she was still thinking clearly through the rage, she should have called the local media to tell them that there was going to be some good shit going down at the local drug store in about 20 minutes, and they might want to get a crew there tout de suite (that's French for "right fucking now").

But the biggest assholes in all of this are the folks in charge at the American Pharmacists Association:

The American Pharmacists Association, with 50,000 members, has a policy that says druggists can refuse to fill prescriptions if they object on moral grounds, but they must make arrangements so a patient can still get the pills. Yet some pharmacists have refused to hand the prescription to another druggist to fill.

Now, you have to wonder, what complete dickheads at the APA decided that it would be a good idea to let its members opt out of filling prescriptions that are placed in front of them? When did this happen? And how did they justify it? Not to make this an overly black and white situation but, really, what's the problem with the APA having taken a stand and said, "If you're a licensed pharmacist, you fill the scrip. Period. Or you find a new job. End of discussion."
To have accepted this opt-out idea is the height of idiocy. What the hell were they thinking?

And, in the end, what can the consumer do? A good question. I've always been a big fan of fighting fire with fire, so here's my suitably demented suggestion. If a local pharmacist makes it a statement of conscience that she can't fill certain scrips, then it's only fair that outraged consumers make it a similar statement of conscience that they can no longer deal with that pharmacist. If you run a service station, well, gosh, it's just against your conscience to sell her gas. Or service her car. You run a grocery store? Darn, but you just can't see your way clear to selling her any groceries. Bummer but, you know, you gotta follow your conscience. You a teacher? Well, crap, but your conscience just won't allow you to teach her kid any more.

You want mean, nasty and vindictive? I gotcher mean, nasty and vindictive right here. It's long past time to play nice when this kind of shit happens. Like the saying goes, when you're going to a knife fight, you take a knife. And if you want to get even nastier, I can do that too.

Bloggers and webmasters can start a local, statewide or even national "hit list" of offending pharmacists, so that everyone knows who they can, well, shun. (By "hit list", I of course don't mean hit as in actual physical violence. I just mean a list of jerks whose lives you can make thoroughly miserable totally within the bounds of the law. Oh, yes, I can be a real asshole at times. It's part of my charm.)

Anyway, that's my $0.02. Your turn.

ADDENDUM: As another example of someone's conscience getting in the way of their official duties, some of you might remember this story of the Chicago police officer who, because of his Catholic beliefs, refused to accept assignments to police protests at abortion clinics. Now, this is an even more egregious and outrageous example of dereliction of duty. Here, you have a public employee, being paid with taxpayer dollars, deciding just which taxpayers deserve his protection.

The legal outcome of that case is here, and it's kind of annoying. The officer was offered the chance to move to another district, but he refused. I don't think he should have been given that opportunity. He should have either accepted what showed up on the daily duty roster, or his sorry ass should have been fired. Frankly, I'm fed up with this "reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs" bullshit. If you're a public employee, you do your job as it's handed to you, or you find another job. But, hey, that's just me.

ADDENDUM 2: If you want to read more about this type of idiocy, what you should be searching for is the phrase "conscience clause", perhaps along with "American Pharmacists Association" if you specifically wanted to keep reading about the pharmacist controversy. As one example that should set you to grinding your teeth, you can read this piece, in which a Denton, Texas pharmacist refused to fill a morning-after pill prescription for a woman who had just been raped. Mercifully, his employer, Eckerd Drugs, fired his worthless, bigoted ass within a week. But if more states enact conscience clauses, this is just the sort of thing you should expect to see more of.

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