Whose Conscience?

Ellen Goodman writes in the WaPo about the “conscience laws” that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their consciences:

The pharmacist who refuses emergency contraception is not just following his moral code, he’s trumping the moral beliefs of the doctor and the patient. “If you open the door to this, I don’t see any place to draw a line,” says Anita Allen, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “The New Ethics.” If the pharmacist is officially sanctioned as the moral arbiter of the drugstore, does he then ask the customer whether the pills are for cramps or contraception? If he’s parsing his conscience with each prescription, can he ask if the morning-after pill is for carelessness or rape? For that matter, can his conscience be the guide to second-guessing Ritalin as well as Viagra?
How much further do we want to expand the reach of the individual conscience? Does the person at the checkout counter have an equal right to refuse to sell condoms? Does the bus driver have a right to refuse to let off customers in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic?
Yes, we want people to have a strong moral compass. But they have to coexist with others whose compasses point in another direction. In the debate over conscience clauses, Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice says, properly, “There is very little recognition that the conscience of the woman is as important, let alone more important, than the conscience of the provider.”

The point Goodman is making here is one that I haven’t seen made very often, and I think it is one of the most important points about this. No one is trying to force women who have objections to birth control and abortion to take birth control or have an abortion. No one has ever tried to force these things on anyone in this country. But the converse is not true – those who oppose women’s reproductive freedom are doing everything they can to force a matter of their personal consciences onto everyone else.
I don’t understand the reasoning behind these laws. If a pharmacist has reservations about filling any prescription at all, that pharmacist is in the wrong job. The entire job consists of dispensing the medication the doctor has ordered for her patient. That’s it.
I resent the hell out of someone who went to pharmacy school telling me what is right or wrong. Pharmacists aren’t preachers, teachers or judges – they take pills out of big containers and put them into smaller ones, stick labels on them and dispense them. And even for those pharmacists who still compound drugs, the question remains the same: Who the hell came up with this notion that that somehow makes pharmacists society’s moral and ethical arbiters?
If the government is going to allow pharmacists to make these kinds of decisions for everyone, then it will eventually have to allow the clerks at Blockbuster the right to refuse to rent movies that they object to. Because if there is a difference between the moral standpoint of a pharmacist who doesn’t believe in birth control and the moral standpoint of a clerk at Blockbuster who doesn’t believe that there should be nudity or violence in movies, then what is it? Both are matters of personal ethics. The only question is whether or not some people are going to get the privelege of imposing their personal ethics on the rest of us. IT’S COMPLETELY BACKWARDS – IF SOMEONE HAS A MORAL OBJECTION TO SOME ASPECT OF HER JOB, GET ANOTHER FUCKING JOB.