Saturday, April 09, 2005

Another Reason Not to Shop Wal-Mart

Levana at MyDD has a great post today on her interaction with Wal-Mart customer service over its policy to allow its pharmacists to refuse to fill women's prescriptions for birth control if this violates the pharmacist's "personal convictions." From Wal-Mart Customer Service:
Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another
pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.
So even though the prescription is completely legal, and may be prescribed by a doctor to treat a variety of health related issues, the pharmacist can impose his or her religious beliefs with the full backing of Wal-Mart. Levana had a great response. Here's a part:
I was wondering, as a matter of principle, if Walmart pharmacists fill prescriptions for Viagra to unmarried men? Or, if Walmart sells condoms, spermicides, or other forms of birth control to unmarried men? I was also wondering if Walmart employees who are opposed to the individual right to bear arms are allowed to deny customers to purchase guns or other firearms?
Now for those of you who would note that birth control isn't really a necessity, Levana sites perfectly normal uses of contraceptives to prevent fibroids and endometriosis. She goes on to point out that Wal-Mart's policy is completely inconsistent and possibly illegal. To me, since it seems to be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner - related to any one employee's "personal beliefs" and only related to birth control for women - that I'd vote for a violation of rights and thereby illegal.

My wife and I were discussing several of the examples Levana poses. In some cases they are constitutional rights: the right to bear arms for example. Condoms may conflict with Catholic beliefs against artificial birth control, but are not abortive. But are spermicides abortive? What about condoms with spermicide? The question remains: who gets to make the call in these cases? Last I checked, this was a country that believed in the rule of law, and not a country that believed in one single set of religious beliefs. As much as the American Talaban (Activist Conservative Christians) like to spout that this nation was founded on Christian values, the question still remains: which Christian values are they? Catholic? Baptist? Methodist? Unitarian? And what about Jewish and Muslim values? Don't they count?

Birth control is completely legal, and as such a women's right should she chose it. It is only the religious beliefs of a minority of this country who view it as wrong. Their beliefs do not make birth control illegal. Nor should these individuals have the right to place their beliefs above the laws of this country, let alone the decision of the medical professionals who legally prescribe them.

Let's set aside the gun control and Viagra argument for a second, and just focus on the policy of religious belief as a person guide for behavior of one's employees. Many Muslims work at Wal-Mart. Islam believes the consumption of pork and alcohol are forbidden. Can a clerk at Wal-Mart refuse to sell these items? Is it Wal-Mart policy to allow Muslim employees to refuse to work in the liquor department based on their religious beliefs? If not, why then can a Catholic pharmacist refuse a legal prescription for birth control on the same grounds?

Wal-Mart and any other company who holds the inconsistent policy of allowing a pharmacist to refuse to fill legally prescribed contraceptives on religious beliefs should be sued for sanctioning discrimination against women and violation of their rights. Until then, it's just another reason not to shop at Wal-Mart.