When is it OK to bring your religious beliefs to work? There are some who say never and others who say always.
I have been wrestling with this issue for the past few days after speaking with my mother who is a nurse. We were, of course, discussing the issue of a pharmacistâ€™s right to refuse to fill a prescription for contraception because of a religious objection. First, she was surprised this was so and then said to me, â€œWell, since it is not, technically, a life or death matter there is no reason that they should be compelled to fill the prescription.â€ She went on to explain that she manages nurses who refuse to have anything to do with sterilization or abortion procedures in the hospital where she works. If there are other nurses on duty, then these people are free to excuse themselves from assisting in this type of procedure. However, if they are the only nurse on duty, for instance they were on call, they would have to put aside their objection for the health of the patient on the table.
The other point she made was this: we live in a country where we are free to believe what we want and practice our own religious choice. She would hate to think that the state or courts could compel people to put aside their beliefs for something other than a life or death situation.
Obviously, Iâ€™m a big believer in freedom of choice. So, I too do not want the state or a court to compel me to do something that is against my beliefs â€“ like fight in an unjust war. Where I get hung up on the issue of pharmacists and contraception can be boiled down to two points:
1) Contraception is not an abortifacient. Birth control pills and RU-486 do not cause the expulsion/removal of an embryo or fetus from the uterus. They prevent the embedding of a zygote in the uterine wall (and why pharmacists need this explained to them is quite beyond me).
2) If opponents to reproductive choice believe they can use the pharmacist as an agent to deny women access to both birth control pills and emergency contraception, what is to stop them from mounting campaigns to intimidate pharmacists and pharmacies across the country into refusing to carry or dispense these drugs?
Now, on the first point it is argued by the anti-choice crowd that life begins at conception. I disagree with this view because viability has not been achieved. A sperm has penetrated an egg. There is no guarantee that even in the absence of birth control that this will result in a pregnancy or live birth. It is on this point that I feel a legal challenge for the compulsory dispensing of legal contraception prescriptions could be mounted. Anyone with legal expertise want to take a look at that one for me?
To the second point, I feel there is some kind of state or federal anti-conspiracy measure that would come in handy should Terry Randell and/or others of his ilk decide to launch this type of action. Again, anyone with legal expertise please feel free to point out where I am right or wrong on this one.
So, I still want to launch some kind of letter / calling campaign to the governorâ€™s office on this issue but I want to have the well-reasoned legal grounds to argue our case. I donâ€™t want to be seen as trying to deny peopleâ€™s right to hold personal beliefs or try and live their life by a moral code. I do however want to ensure that women have access to the legal drugs that they and their doctor decide are right for their reproductive health.
It is all about securing the right to choose. We will never be successful if we are seen to deny the rights of others.
Let me hear from you on where we go from here!