Friday, July 27, 2007

Confusion over the First Amendment: Pharmacists sue over Morning After Pill

The state of Washington is being sued by pharmacists who object to a new regulation requiring them to offer the morning-after pill for sale. Their objections are based on their religious views concerning abortion:

"In a lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday, a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists say the rule that took effect Thursday violates their civil rights by forcing them into choosing between 'their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs.'

Here is the entire story, and it is typical of the misunderstanding many have about the freedom of, and from, religion in the first amendment. The purpose of that amendment was to give us freedom of conscience with regard to our religious views, or lack thereof. No more would anyone be jailed for not believing as those with political power do.

However, this protects belief, not action. The law says the morning after pill must be made available. If your religious views say that is the wrong thing to do, then get another profession, get a coworker to do so for you (as the law allows), or just accept that all of society does not share one's views and do the job anyway. Speak out against the law if one is so motivated. However, one cannot expect to be allowed to ignore laws simply by saying "my religion says otherwise", and that is essentially what these pharmacists are attempting. It is no different than if I were to refuse to pay my taxes on the basis of my Avengerism, my own religion, which forbids taxation, excessive sobriety, and Brent Musburger.

What? You say Avengerism isn't a real religion? Well, what makes something a real religion then? We can't decide that according to theology. After all, if that could be proven, there wouldn't be so many religions in the first place. We can't decide according to size. That would translate into freedom from religion only for large religions, or as Mark Twain put it:

"A cult is a religion with no political power."

It is that sort of thinking that the first amendment was designed to avoid. Freedom of religion means we can ALL be secure in our views, while being subjected to the same laws. That goes for pro-life pharmacists along with everyone else.


Ian said...

Oh course, there's also the niggling fact that the morning after pill doesn't cause abortions, it just prevents ovulation, so unless you are religiously opposed to birth control, you don't have a case. "Pro-life" has little to do with it. (Or maybe I'm just running my mouth...err fingers...and the case is actually about birth control.)

So how do I join Avengerism and get to ignore drunk driving laws?

ScienceAvenger said...

Great, so as bad as I thought their argument was, you're telling me it's even worse.

Ian said...

The myth that the morning after pill is an "abortion" pill has been spread by the religious right, and it's been repeated in the press, but as far as I know all it does is prevent ovulation. There's a slim chance that it might prevent implantation of a fertilised egg; the Wikipedia article says that studies in the 70s and 80s suggested that the drugs could change the endometrium, but recent studies have no supported this (which pretty much agrees with what I have read before).

The pharmacists may believe that they are being asked to sell an abortion pill, but if the FDA thought so, they would never have approved it as an OTC. It's just right wing disinformation.