Conscience clauses

In theory, the conscience clause sounds sort of like it might be a good idea: Pharmacists who think birth control and abortion are murder shouldn’t be required to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills, or birth control.
It is, of course, only one facet of an issue that’s been around a while: Pat Robertson was arguing back in the 1980s that salesclerks shouldn’t have to sell Playboy or Penthouse if it violates their morality. Some Muslim taxi drivers don’t want to drive unescorted women or people who’ve been drinking.
And certainly if a pharmacy can work around an objecting pharmacist—or a bookstore can hand off checkout duties to a less-conflicted salesclerk—I think that’s a good thing. Much like arranging for employees to take their faith’s holy days off, if it can be arranged.
But if that can’t be arranged—I’m sorry, I think the employee has to bite the bullet. If you find part of your job morally objectionable, you shouldn’t be doing it. And filling prescriptions, ringing up purchases and not discriminating among your taxi passengers are all parts of the job.
Beyond that, I have several more specific objections:
•It’s only the tip of the iceberg. The Pharmacists for Life website, for instance, implies that if a pharmacist gets what he considers morally objectionable prescription, he shouldn’t even have to compromise by giving it back to the person who owns it (for their own good, of course).
•It’s one way. The conscience clause W enacted into federal regulation before he left office, for example, guaranteed that pharmacists who refused to provide birth control or cashiers who refused to ring up the prescription couldn’t be fired for not doing their job.
But what if you’re a doctor at a Catholic hospital and you believe a woman will die unless she gets an abortion, and recommend she do so? Or you write a prescription for morning-after pills? Under the conscience clause (which Obama thankfully revoked), the doctor didn’t get any protection. It’s almost like Bush was paying off the religious right for their support rather than advocating a genuine protection for people who act on their belief.
Similarly I’m quite sure that most people who insist on their rights wouldn’t be at all willing to have this kind of thinking turned against them. If someone who believes in curing disease with prayer refused to ring up any prescription, for instance. Or a bookstore clerk informed a Christian that as an atheist, he finds the Bible offends him and he’s not going to ring one up. Or one of those Muslim cab drivers refused to provide transportation. Or a convenience store salesclerk refuses to sell them a cigarette.
I know very few people who are actually willing to grant these rights to people who don’t operate from their own portion of the religious spectrum.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics

3 responses to “Conscience clauses

  1. Pingback: Possibly we should call it a “conscienceless clause” « Fraser Sherman’s Blog

  2. Pingback: And some politics too! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Bicycled 14 miles, still sore | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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