lundi, novembre 14, 2005

Missing the Mark; or: Those Devilish Discounters!

I have permission from my friend Florence to publish the following exchange.

Florence, who is one of my favorite people, wrote a letter to Target protesting their pharmacy policy which allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense medications on moral grounds.

This is what they wrote back:

Dear Target Guest

In our ongoing effort to provide great service to our guests, Target consistently ensures that prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B are filled. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also requires us to accommodate our team members’ sincerely held religious beliefs.

In the rare event that a pharmacist’s beliefs conflict with filling a guest’s prescription for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, our policy requires our pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest’s prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner, either by another Target pharmacist or a different pharmacy.

The emergency contraceptive Plan B is the only medication for which this policy applies. Under no circumstances can the pharmacist prevent the prescription from being filled, make discourteous or judgmental remarks, or discuss his or her religious beliefs with the guest.

Target abides by all state and local laws and, in the event that other laws conflict with our policy, we follow the law.

We're surprised and disappointed by Planned Parenthood’s negative campaign. We’ve been talking with Planned Parenthood to clarify our policy and reinforce our commitment to ensuring that our guests’ prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B are filled. Our policy is similar to that of many other retailers and follows the recommendations of the American Pharmacists Association. That’s why it’s unclear why Target is being singled out.

We’re committed to meeting the needs of our female guests and will continue to deliver upon that commitment.


Jennifer Hanson
Target Executive Offices

This is my friend's reply:

Ms. Hanson:

I guess it's my turn to be "surprised and disappointed" now. I don't understand why you're so confused about the basis for what you label as a "negative campaign."

As an attorney, I am certainly familiar with Title VII. I am also familiar with the U.S. Constitution. As you may know, contraception is a right that the U.S. Supreme Court found, thirty years ago, to be Constitutionally protected. The "morning after pill" has been available for well over 20-25 years, and is clearly encompassed within this Constitutional protection.

If one of your employees has a "sincerely held" religious belief forbidding listening to rock music (as did my best friend in high school), can a cashier now refuse to check out a customer's CD purchases? How about if someone has sincerely held religious beliefs that prohibit playing cards (as my grandparents' church forbad)? Would a customer buying UNO now be told by one of your employees to get it at Wal-Mart or move into another line? How about condoms? Do employees who religiously object to birth control, to pre-marital sex, or to homosexuality now have a right to refuse checking those out unless proof of "approved" use is provided? I suspect that your alleged concern about compliance with Title VII is highly selective.

Your response is very, very troubling, and I will not be able to patronize Target this holiday season, or beyond, until I learn that this policy is revoked. I will also immediately send your response to my friends and colleagues so that they are fully informed as well.

And part of what kills me about this whole thing is this: I'm a pharmacist. I work for Target. I object morally to the morning after pill or any prescription. I refuse to dispense it, but I'm required to help people get it. Can you say "distinction without a difference?" As I wrote to my eloquent and beautiful friend: I'm not the dopeman, but I'm the dopeman's broker - when you die of an overdose, am I not culpable?

Capitalists! Vote with your dollars! If a company does something objectionable (like our Target friends here), spend your money elsewhere.

Citizens in a Democracy! Exercise your First Amendment rights! Send Target a letter telling them to do the right thing!