Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Conscience clauses and religious wingnuts: Part 4, the last.

And if you've toughed it out through the last three parts, you'll have noticed how it's not really sufficient to ask "pro-life" pharmacists what they want, and get an answer of "We want to dispense medications according to our conscience." That doesn't really say much since it still leaves a lot of wiggle room to mess with peoples' lives, doesn't it? But all that aside, there's two bigger issues that need to be addressed.

First, if one is willing to grant these people the right to be selective about their dispensation, it's fair game to ask them, what should the customers expect to get in return? What's that, they'll ask? What do you mean?

Simple. If one is willing to accommodate them to some extent, what "accommodation" are they willing to give in return? The old "quid pro quo". If we bend a bit to satisfy you, what do we get back? Put another way, if these folks are granted one particular right, what other right or rights are they prepared to sacrifice to even things out? And the answer, if you read carefully, is nothing.

As an example, one can imagine that pro-life pharmacists, if they're granted the right to follow their conscience, might be willing to give up, say, the right to employment. As in, you can follow your beliefs, but you should be prepared to get fired because of them. Quid pro quo. We give you something, we have the right to get something in return. It's only fair.

Or how about, sure, you can adhere to your "pro-life" views, but you have to pay for them by hiring another pharmacist to step in for you when the occasion calls for it. In other words, we'll respect your conscience as long as you guarantee that customers can still get their prescriptions filled. If you won't do it, you just have to make sure someone else is there who will. In short, it'll cost you.

But it never works that way, does it? These people want customers to accommodate to their religious principles without having to do any accommodation in return. It's all a one-way street -- pro-life pharmacists get additional rights and privileges and, in return, customers get inconvenienced. Conscience without consequences. What a great deal. But that's not even the worst of it.

Ask a simple question -- who benefits from the idea of a "conscience clause"? Why, that's easy, you think -- the pharmacist. And sure, you'd like to think so. It seems pretty clear that that clause has no value to the customer. It's designed strictly and expressly for the benefit of the pharmacist, isn't it? Well, you would think so until you read the FAQ section at the web site of "Pharmacists for Life International", particularly this eye-opening excerpt:

Q. If a pharmacist objects to dispensing, say, an OC/MAP he knows is abortifacient, is he obliged to refer that client to someone else?

A. A pharmacist by virtue of properly understood conscience cannot be licitly compelled to cooperate in such a fashion with what he knows will result in a chemical abortion and, hence, a dead baby. Such activity is called material cooperation. Further, it is not an inconvenience to refuse to refer such a client since the pharmacist is doing the woman and her preborn child a favor in terms of physical and spiritual health.

Well, how about that? Turns out this wasn't just about them after all, was it? No, what we have is the position of a bunch of holier-than-thou, sanctimonious religious wingnuts who have decided they know what's best for you and your "spiritual health". So even if you're mightily pissed about not getting your prescription, you can take comfort in the fact that they're just doing it for your own good. It's not like you or your doctor would be the best person to make those decisions, oh no. That's their job now.

And just in case you didn't get that message the first time, well, here it is again:

Q. Isn't the pharmacist who declines to dispense such chemicals "imposing" his morality on his client?

A. The pharmacist who declines to dispense drugs or counseling which he knows to violate his conscience, properly understood, is resisting an objective evil and, in fact, is doing his client a favor.

Read the entire FAQ -- it really is major scary.

In closing all this out, then, let's be clear what we're dealing with here. These are not just internally-conflicted folks trying to obey their moral conscience while doing a tough job. Oh no, what we have here are fundamentalist wackos who see themselves on a mission from God, and that's what makes them scary as hell.

It's tempting, in the interests of fairness, to try to negotiate, to compromise, to accommodate them and keep everyone happy. And that approach is just doomed to failure because no amount of accommodation will ever be enough for these lunatics. There is only one solution, and that's to get them out of the business. Whenever this subject comes up, there should be one and only one response -- either do your job or find another line of work.

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