Earlier this year much was made of pharmacists who refused, on moral grounds, to dispense various sorts of birth control. While the vast majority of commentators were wailing and rending their shirts over this "unfair and worrying" development, I decided to sit by and wait for the other shoe to drop.
Walgreen Co. said it has put four Illinois pharmacists in the St. Louis area on unpaid leave for refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception in violation of a state rule.
The four cited religious or moral objections to filling prescriptions for the morning-after pill and "have said they would like to maintain their right to refuse to dispense, and in Illinois that is not an option," Walgreen spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce said.
Illinois must not be an "employ at will" state, or Walgreens must not have its policies in order. In both Virginia and Arkansas, these people would've been shown the door simply because they weren't doing the described job, that of filling prescriptions. Why they weren't doing it would be immaterial. Yes, there most definitely would've been lawsuits (perhaps another reason for the legislation), but they would be unwinnable.
This is why it's so important to let market forces do their work whenever possible. This is why people who think businessmen and their profit are evil are simply out of their minds. Customers want safe forms of contraception, and are willing to pay much more than it costs to produce them. Pharmacists who let their politics get in the way of someone else's business cut into those profits, providing strong, efficient, and effective incentives for said pharmacists to either change their ways or stop being pharmacists, voluntarily or otherwise.
Europe is praised for its worker-friendly environment, but in, say, France, pharmacists who refuse to do their job are effectively immune to the consequences, protected by thick layers of government regulation and ubiquitous unions. Labor unions in our own country are often praised for sticking up for the "little guy", but in a case like this the pharmacists would again be protected by labor contracts and arbitration. Meanwhile, someone who doesn't want to become a parent waits, held hostage by forces beyond their control.
Standing up for your principles is commendable. A pharmacist can decide on religious grounds that all medicine is bad and refuse to hand out anything but sugar pills, and that's fine by me. Fine by me, that is, as long as the market that wants these medicines is allowed to thunder past or even over them to get what it wants.
A final note: Standing up for your principles also means being prepared to accept the consequences of your actions. Doing so with dignity and honor is what heroes are all about. Suing someone because you don't like the aftermath doesn't make you a hero, it makes you a whiney bitch.