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Posted by on Jul 11, 2009 in Health, Politics, Religion | 19 comments

When Pro-Choice Meets Pro-Business

I was alerted to yet another controversial court case involving the dreaded “morning after pill” by our friend Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. This particular drama is playing out in the 9th Circuit Court of appeals and deals with a pharmacy being told by the courts that they must provide Plan B.

Pharmacists are obliged to dispense the Plan B pill, even if they are personally opposed to the “morning after” contraceptive on religious grounds, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

In a case that could affect policy across the western U.S., a supermarket pharmacy owner in Olympia, Wash., failed in a bid to block 2007 regulations that required all Washington pharmacies to stock and dispense the pills.

This is one of those interesting cases in punditry, because Ed and I come down on opposite sides in the abortion issue – I’m reluctantly pro-choice and Ed is pro-life. However, in this case we wind up agreeing and it really has nothing to do with either religion or Roe v. Wade. A portion of his take:

There have been two different issues in the legal fight over Plan B. In one group, pharmacists not working for themselves — for instance, at chain pharmacies — objected to dispensing the pill and wanted job protection despite their refusal. Those cases hardly stand up to scrutiny. The owner of the pharmacy has the right to decide on his own inventory and what to sell, and the employees of that pharmacy either should follow that policy or find a job somewhere else if it offends them.

Ed and I may not agree on whether or not women should be legally able to take the Plan B pill, but we certainly do agree on whether or not business owners have to sell anything they choose not to. This isn’t a question of pro-choice vs. pro-life. It’s a business decision. I most certainly do not feel that a pharmacist who works for the owner of a shop can decide not to sell the pill to customers if the owner has decided to carry it. The pharmacist has their rights, of course. They have the right to go work someplace else where their values won’t be compromised. But if the owner or chain management wish to have it sold, that is their business. (literally.)

This case, however, is dealing with the owner of the shop. I’ve been to Olympia. Trust me, there are plenty of pharmacies in the area. Anyone seeking the product can find it in short order, often without having to hail a cab. If the owner chooses to not carry it and a sufficient number of consumers are offended by that, he will go out of business and the market will have spoken. If a good portion of the community admires his position and chooses to shop there, he will thrive and those needing Plan B will still be able to go to Walgreen’s or Rite_Aid.

I think Plan B is a valuable product which can help a lot of women in difficult circumstances. But I do not believe that it is the government’s place to tell business owners that they must carry it – or any other product for that matter – and shoppers will make the required judgment.