Posted by: bridget | 26 August 2007

Miscellaneous Blogging & Catching Up

Promised death penalty stats (in Word format; cannot upload Excel on WordPress).

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Total Transformation sent along “Keep Your Laws off My Doggie,” which parodies the pro-abortion movement. Ironically, Feministing complains that there is more uproar over dog fighting than domestic violence.  (Perhaps they agree with Peter Singer: eating meat = bad; abusing animals = bad; infanticide = okay; euthanasia = okay.)

——

Plan B, the free market, and regulation: PatHMV said this, in regards to Plan B:

When the stories of the pharmacists refusing to dispense Plan B first came up, I tended to side with the point you make, that they should have freedom of conscience.

Then the stories came out about Muslim taxi drivers refusing to carry passengers carrying liquor, perhaps ultimately even refusing to carry female passengers too “provocatively” dressed.

Try as I might, I can’t come up with a truly principled distinction which would allow us to permit the one and deny the other their religious freedom to choose whom to serve and for what reasons. I think we have to say that if you’re going to hold yourself out as serving the general public, your first loyalty needs to be to performing that service, not picking and choosing based on whatever your religious beliefs happen to be.

This begs the question: is there a principled distinction to be made between taxi drivers and pharmacists? Between liquor and Plan B?

Minnesota recently passed legislation that imposes stronger penalties against taxi driver who refuse service to passengers for “unwarranted reasons” (i.e. some reason other than fear of bodily injury). Formerly, taxi drivers were required to return to the back of the queue if they refused service; now, they may lose their licenses. As noted in the comments on the Plan B thread, state governments heavily regulate the taxi industry and often limit the number of licenses. This serves to undermine free-market solutions to the problem.

As Pat pointed out, it is difficult to determine what actions are a valid exercise of religious activity. The Koran prohibits imbibing alcohol, but not all Muslims agree that this should proscribe taxi drivers from carrying intoxicated passengers. Religious exceptions to otherwise-prohibited activities are also difficult: consider Oregon v. Smith (peyote) and Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye (animal sacrifices).

The Plan B issue, however, is not necessarily religious in nature. There are very valid secular reasons for pharmacists to refuse to dispense Plan B. Much as they could (and, perhaps, should) refuse to dispense a medication that they know would be used to harm another person, or would have harmful interactions, they can refuse to dispense Plan B, which, by definition, may cause the death of another human. The oath that pharmacists take requires them to act with dignity and conscience. Psychiatrists have an affirmative duty to warn; pharmacists must tell pregnant women about the effects of prescribed medications upon their developing children. Shortly after Roe v. Wade, Congress passed the first Conscience Clause laws, which allows health care providers to refuse to provide abortion and sterlisation services if it is against their religious or moral beliefs. Most states followed suit. It is not a stretch of these doctrines to determine that a pharmacist has a duty to a just-conceived child, and may act in accordance with that duty.

Now, one could argue that psychiatrists should not have a duty to warn third parties of possible harm, or that physicians should be required to perform sterlisation services; however, a government mandate that pharmacists endanger just-conceived humans is a radical departure from our thinking about the duty of physicians to third parties.

There is a free-market solution to this issue: individual pharmacies can contract with pharmacists to either require them to dispense Plan B; allow them to find another pharmacist to dispense it; or allow them to send customers elsewhere. (Conscience Clauses undermine this free-market effort, as they prohibit businesses from requiring pharmacists to fill the prescriptions. The absence of a Conscience Clause, however, does not mean that the government will necessarily mandate that the drug be dispensed.)

Women would only have to determine beforehand whether or not the pharmacy stocks the drug, and, if so, if the pharmacist on staff will dispense it. Women are not such frail or incapable creatures that they cannot call a store before driving there. Furthermore, the drug has a long shelf life and doctors will prescribe it for emergencies; nothing is preventing a sexually active woman from getting the drug before she needs it.

Ruckus away in the comment section.

 

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Responses

  1. I love when my suggestions make your main page. Maybe one day I will see a link to one of my blog posts there. :-)

    Speaking of which check out my latest post on my rather irreverent and often bawdy blog http://jjkaiser.blogspot.com
    Enjoy!

  2. The problem which remains, as with all issues related to abortion, is the fundamental division in our country between those who believe that a fertilized egg is a human being and those who believe that it is not. If one accepts that it is a human being, then certainly the distinction you make is a sound, principled one. But for those who do not believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, the distinction between not dispensing Plan B and not carrying alcohol imbibers or scantily clad women is not as great.

    You make a good point about the Conscience Clause laws, and perhaps the answer is simply to declare that we all recognize what a touchy subject abortion is, and we won’t require anybody do act in that regard, but without making any more general exception.

  3. TT,

    Dahlin, if you ever start snarking about Leftism, I’ll link to it. :)

    Pat,

    Completley agree with your first paragraph. Perhaps the true distinction is whether one believes in the personhood of a fertilised egg; after all, going on a very strict biological defintion, the progeny of two humans is a human, regardless of its stage of development. It does not morph between species or spontaneously become a member of the species at some arbitrary stage of development.`

    What I’m really after is a “reasonable minds may differ” stance, whereby we would allow a pharmacist to protect the third party in question if he believes that there is a third party worth protecting, and, as with many things, let the free market sort it out. Pharmacists for Life can certainly pressure employers into not requiring them to dispense this medication – collective bargaining is nothing new.

    My real objection is to the laws that would require pharmacies to carry this drug and pharmacists to dispense it, which contravenes the entire philosophy of negative rights.

  4. “Dahlin, if you ever start snarking about Leftism, I’ll link to it. :)”

    Have you read my other blog? Lol.

  5. I just found out today that where I live, if I see an injured box turtle on the road I am required to take it to a conservation officer, I can be fined for failing to do so (I think they would have to catch me first). If I see one crossing the road, I am required to stop and carry it across the road, being careful to place it in the same direction it was traveling.

    So, it makes me wonder, how does a fertilized human egg compare to a box turtle?

    While I was proofing this, I realized that they are using mechanical deer to catch poachers, how soon will it be before they have mechanical turtles?

    P.S. I did not find this out from personal experience, it was a friend of mine who got the turtle ticket.

  6. I just found out today that where I live, if I see an injured box turtle on the road I am required to take it to a conservation officer, I can be fined for failing to do so (I think they would have to catch me first). If I see one crossing the road, I am required to stop and carry it across the road, being careful to place it in the same direction it was traveling.

    So, it makes me wonder, how does a fertilized human egg compare to a box turtle?

    While I was proofing this, I realized that they are using mechanical deer to catch poachers, how soon will it be before they have mechanical turtles?

    P.S. I did not find this out from personal experience, it was a friend of mine who got the turtle ticket.

  7. SST,

    Wow. I’m shocked. So you have a positive duty to a box turtle (instead of the usual negative duty to not run it over) and endanger yourself at the same time. I’ve been hit by cars twice and have no desire to go for number three, even though I love wildlife as much as the next hippie tree-hugger.

    Okay, okay, I know I should focus on the real issue (greater duty to box turtle mandated by law than that permitted by law to a human fetus); however, I just can’t get over the idea of an affirmative duty that includes the duty to put yourself in danger. Why can’t the Supreme Court rule that, at certain stages of road-crossing (i.e. the first trimester), it is more dangerous for the motorist to exit his car to help the turtle across the street, or to dodge it, than to squish it? As such, the ability to terminate a turtle crossing should be a Constitutional right. The State may only mandate that one swerve to avoid turtles during the third trimester of its passage, when the likelihood of its success is balanced out by the danger to the motorist.

  8. In fairness to my state, I should say that the law cited by the arresting officer refers to endangered species, not box turtles specifically. However, box turtles have recently been declared endangered in our area. And it remains to be seen how this would hold up in court, especially since my friend plans to pay his hundred bucks and go on.

    Anyway I liked your response, please let me know when you argue your first case before the supreme court. I may try to come watch.

    Lets hope the supremes don’t get their hands on the box turtle case though. I mean, some of my best friends are box turtles, but that doesn’t mean I would want my kids to go to school with one.

    Seriously again, I actually have helped turtles across the road a few times when moving farm equipment. I remember once when I was a boy, I came across one so big I had to get one of my cousins to help me carry it. But I don’t like the idea of being forced to.

  9. Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

    A. Because it was mandated by law to help the endangered box turtle.

    I have huge issues with laws that impose affirmative duties upon people. So we are supposed to understand (daily) which animals are on the endangered species list, carry around a field guide so we can spot them if they happen to be in the road, and, of course, help them across the road so it won’t become mystery meat in the local Chinese restaurant? What if this is a highway? Are you supposed to dodge traffic going 80 mph to help Yurtle on his way? (Why are these laws always made by people who supposedly believe in Darwinism?)

    This is ripe for satire.


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