You Had to Know It Was Coming

You may recall the recent United States Supreme ruling in the case of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple.  The Court actually evaded a direct ruling on the question of whether a religious conviction could justify refusal of goods and services by holding, in essence, that the baker did not get a fair hearing before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court’s decision was widely reported as having been for the baker and it was seen as permission to deny goods and services on the basis of religious beliefs.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, a Walgreens’ pharmacist in Arizona refused to give a woman a drug prescribed by her doctor. The drug, Misoprostol, can be used to end a failed pregnancy in the first ten weeks. In this lady’s situation, it was being used by her doctor because there was no fetal heartbeat and the pregnancy would end in a miscarriage. When the lady went to Walgreens with her 7 year old to pick up her prescription, the pharmacist asked if she was pregnant. When she responded affirmatively, the pharmacist refused to give her the prescription because of “his ethical beliefs.”

Walgreens later apologized to the lady. But, Walgreens said, “To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacist while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection.”

I’m not at all certain what message the United States Supreme Court intended to send in the wedding cake case, but I’m pretty sure it was not that you and your doctor have to consult with a pharmacist’s conscience in order to receive a legal drug lawfully prescribed by your doctor.

The unfortunate, but predictable, consequences of the wedding cake case is that religion will be used to justify personal prejudice until the Supreme Court defines the limits of permissible conduct.

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