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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

Conscience clause confuses

By Megan Sutherland
Staff Writer


Friday, March 24, 2006

Last year on his television show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Bill Maher facetiously commented that pharmacists refusing to fill birth control prescriptions should go a step further to stop their stores from “coddling sluts” by refusing to sell makeup and suntan lotion as well. “I've seen what happens at the MTV Beach House, you whore. You want to avoid melanoma? Buy a veil,” Maher mocked.

When Maher’s comments aired, I laughed at the absurdity of such refusals, assuming the joke was based on a few isolated incidents; I didn’t think these refusals were part of a growing national trend. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Recently, a House committee in the Minnesota Legislature approved Minn. S 2430, a bill that would allow pharmacists to exercise so-called “pharmacist conscious clauses.” This permits an individual to refuse to fill a prescription to which he or she morally objects, namely birth control and the “morning-after” pill. While the House committee’s approval means nothing official, those sponsoring the bill expect it to pass when the Legislature votes.

What’s irritating about this proposal is that it essentially gives people permission to pick and choose which parts of a job they are willing to perform. With this logic, Mormon Cinemark employees could reject customers wanting to buy tickets to R-rated movies and Jewish Burger King cashiers could refuse to add bacon to your hamburger.

The point is, it’s not the employee’s decision to make. I’m a vegetarian, but when I’m at work and a customer orders corned beef on their sandwich, I don’t say, “I’m sorry, but I morally oppose the slaughtering and consumption of animals, and I feel uncomfortable permitting you to eat it. If you kindly step into the other line, my co-worker will be glad to press the corned beef button on the cash register.”

Groups supporting the bill, such as Pharmacists for Life, say that no one should be forced to dispense a drug he or she feels is immoral. They argue that pharmacists would be required to notify their employers in advance, stating these beliefs, as well as making sure that the customers are informed of another location where they can obtain their prescriptions. Some still insist, however, that pharmacists should not actually be forced to transfer such a prescription if they feel very strongly.

Thus far, four other states have approved the “pharmacist conscious clause,” while many others are considering it. These denials of service, coupled with the increasing number of states seeking to ban abortion in hopes of challenging Roe v. Wade, is just the latest attempt by conservative Christians to assert themselves as the moral police.

I encourage anyone concerned about this matter to please call Rice County’s State Sen. Thomas Neuville at (651) 296-1279 or your own county’s state senator.

Staff Writer Megan Sutherland is a senior from The Woodlands, Texas. She majors in English.





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