Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others

Eugene Volokh points to an interesting story about an Eckerd pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for the morning-after pill based on personal objections to abortion. The Eckerd management apparently did not approve, and is taking "disciplinary action" against this employee. (I'm not sure what "disciplinary action" might mean in this context. Will an Eckerd executive make the pharmacist take a note home to his mommie? Pharmacists love notes!)

What's especially interesting about this case is that it is almost entirely identical to a case described by David Bernstein in his book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws. Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction describing the case:

Religious conservatives have also jumped on the antidiscrimination bandwagon. In Wellsville, Ohio, Dolores Stanley celebrated her new job as manager of the local Dairy Mart by removing Playboy and Penthouse from the store?s shelves. ??It goes against everything I believe in as a Christian,?? Stanley said. ??There?s no way I could participate in that.?? Stanley?s superiors at corporate headquarters, attempting to exercise Dairy Mart?s First Amendment right to sell legal magazines, told Stanley to replace the periodicals. She refused and was fired. The American Family Association, a conservative antipornography organization, represented Stanley in a lawsuit against Dairy Mart for sex and religious discrimination and for subjecting her to a ??hostile workplace environment.?? The case settled before trial for a sum ??well into the six figures.??

If Eckerd fires this pharmacist for not filling prescriptions and the pharmacist then sues for religious discrimination, shouldn't we expect a similar result? I'd say something along the lines of "So much for private property rights and freedom of association," but it's a bit too late for that.

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I don't know. I mean, you

I don't know. I mean, you certainly can't force a doctor to perform an abortion just because he's an employee of the hospital, can you? Everywhere I've ever worked, allowances are made for the religious holidays of non-christians in the office, taking off for the Jewish holidays and whatnot. I knew one guy in a consulting practice I worked for was a religious jew, and needed to be home by sundown every Friday. But we just worked around that. Nobody ever said, "You must come in on Saturday because we have extra work to do, and if you don't you're fired."

The two cases you cite will

The two cases you cite will be viewed entirelly differently by the courts. The magazine case falls under sexual harassment, where liberal courts will always side with the woman. The second case falls under abortion, with the liberal courts always siding with the pro-abortion position. So I bet the two cases will end up having opposite outcomes.

Neither of these "cases"

Neither of these "cases" should even come before the courts. The two individuals, the Dairy Mart manager and the Eckerd pharmacist, were employees. Employees do not set policy for what a retailer sells. It is disheartening to think that Micha's comment, "...it's a bit too late for that." is dead on. Weren't courts supposed to protect rights rather than destroy?

sama, there's always other

sama, there's always other jobs available. While employers may make allowances for their employees out of personal kindness or more likely to improve employee morale I reallly don't think having the state enforce this is very libertarian at all.

I agree with John. Neither

I agree with John. Neither of these cases should ever have come before the courts. In both of these cases the plaintiff had to know would be expected of them prior to their hiring, so they took the jobs with full knowledge of their responsibilities and then decided not to perform those responsibilities.

It would be different if they had agreed prior to their hiring that they would not display the magazines or distribute the drugs, or if the employer had changed the policy after they were hired. But since the policies were already in place in both of these cases, firing them for refusing to do their jobs is entirely appropriate.

I don't know. I mean, you

I don't know. I mean, you certainly can't force a doctor to perform an abortion just because he's an employee of the hospital, can you?

Is the contract a doctor has with the hospital where he works the same as the contract a convenience store worker has with the convenience store? I think - though I may very well be mistaken - that doctors' contracts with hospitals are more like contracts a company signs with a builder when they want to construct a new store or warehouse or whatever.

I used to think, things like

I used to think, things like this happens in my country only. Certainly this post is an eye opener. It only confirms the belief that human feelings essentially are same everywhere.

Sama: If the mother's life

Sama: If the mother's life or health is in danger and a doctor refuses to abort, the doctor can be sued for malpractice. If the abortion is elective, most hospitals allow doctors to choose whether to schedule such procedures--although my understanding is that it's more a matter of allowing the doctor to decide for herself whether to put her own life and safety at risk by becoming an "abortionist." In any case, if a woman comes into the ER in need of an abortion and the doctor cites religious grounds and refuses to help the patient, she can be sued.

Amy, when was the last time

Amy, when was the last time anybody, anywhere, went rushing into the ER demanding an abortion RIGHT THIS SECOND OR I'M GOING TO DIE IN FRONT OF YOU? Incidentally, not all doctors, even ER doctors, recieve training in the procedure, precisely because so many refuse it on moral grounds. The state can't force them to learn it, though a few have tried, and doctors can't be sued for not performing a procedure they aren't proficient in (since to do so would constitute malpractice in and of itself). Furthermore, Catholic hospitals cannot be held liable, in civil or criminal courts, for refusing to perform abortions, no matter what the circumstances. This has held precisely because the "desperate-emergency-the-clock-is-ticking-this-is-not-a-drill" abortion is a fantastical rhetorical weapon more than a rampant occurence.

This is not to say that it isn't concievable that a doctor could be sued for refusing an emergency abortion, though again I think the scenario you're conjuring up is an exceedingly rare one. I just think the broad brush you're using represents more wishful thinking than legal reality.

As for the pharmacist at hand, the smartest thing he could have done would have been to inform his employer upfront about their refusal to prescribe this or any other medication. That would have been fair notice to pharmacy, and maybe even some legal freight for him now. In any case, principles are principles and the right thing for him to do in this case was to A) refuse the prescription, consequences be damned, and B) take whatever punishment is dished out as the cost of living one's beliefs. Complaining on religious grounds isn't going to get my sympathy.