Saturday, June 03, 2006
Score one for the good guys
Judge dismisses suit by pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control
By RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated Press Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A federal judge dismissed a Roman Catholic pharmacist's claim that he was fired by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for refusing to fill birth control prescriptions and that the dismissal violated his religious freedom.
The ruling Thursday said Wal-Mart had accommodated Neil Noesen's religious opposition to birth control by having other pharmacists fill prescriptions.
But U.S. District Judge John Shabaz said Noesen went too far by putting customers who called about birth control on hold indefinitely and by refusing to get service for those who showed up in person.
Noesen, 32, could not be located for comment Friday.
An attorney who represented Medical Staffing Network, the agency that placed him at the Wal-Mart store, said the ruling was among the first in the country to deal with religious accommodations for pharmacists.
"It demonstrates there has to be a balance between accommodating someone's religious beliefs while at the same time providing a service and allowing people access to medical care," attorney Stephanie Adler said.
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said the company was pleased with the ruling.
"These cases are rare, but when they do happen, we are careful to make accommodations. We also have a responsibility to customers to ensure that their prescriptions are filled," he said.
According to the judge's ruling, Noesen refused to leave the Wal-Mart store and eventually was dragged out in a wheelchair by police. He was convicted last month of resisting arrest but was acquitted on a disorderly conduct charge stemming from that incident.
Noesen also was sanctioned by the state Pharmacy Examining Board for refusing to fill a contraceptive prescription or transfer it while working at another store in 2002. The board reprimanded him and forced him to attend ethics classes.
You'd think, given my particular religious views, I'd be a bit torn about this issue. But I'm not. In the slightest. Someone brings in a prescription, you fill it. Period. Unless you see the medication will cause problems due to another med the patient is on or something legitmate like that. Then, you get on the phone to the doctor and find a substitute. You don't ignore patients who come in in-person, you don't put them on hold forever, you don't refuse to leave and have to be taken out in a frigging wheelchair. Gods bless, people, have a little dignity.
Personally, I'd be much more hardcore than some of these stores. If it was my store, everyone would fill the 'scripts as brought in. However, I understand and appreciate the accomodation for religious belief. So long as there is actually someone around who can and will fill a 'script, the patient gets what he/she needs and everyone can go home happy. It's not how I'd run the universe, but it's a fairly reasonable compromise. But the thing is, here in Rural America, there are times when there is only one phramacy within an hour's drive. And they have exactly one pharmacist. What do you do if that pharmacist decides you don't need your birth control? Or you pain meds? Or the pills to control your herpes? Who gets to make the decision as to what's a 'morally' accepted medication or not?
Here's my problem with these fundy's screaming about Jesus not wanting them to fill birth control prescrpitions -- they've never read their Bible or had a real experience with Christ. They follow church doctrine and dogma instead, which is a very different thing. My first religious experience was in a Southern Baptist church with Jesus. (What? A pagan who believes in and respects Jesus? Is it a sign of the end of the world? Yeah. Anyway.) And Jesus is nothing like these people want him to be. Take care of the sick and afflicted. Befriend the wounded and lonely. And don't ask for anything in return. There are so few true Christians in this world because it's damn hard to do. It's not about getting and controlling and telling people how to live their lives. It's about letting people be who they are, as flawed and fucked up as that may be, and loving them anyway, without asking them to become like you. You love them, you show them you love them and you live. It is the most powerful, transformative experience possible to realize you are acceptable to the Divine exactly like you are, no changes necessary, and that that will never change and that there will never be a list of rules for you to follow or be punished. But these people don't get that. They started trying to steal that experience away from me as soon as it happened and I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive them for that. (Hey, Jesus is all about the forgiving. My personal guides are a bit...less so. Though I try. Usually.)
So, here's the thing -- even these compromises may not work in every town. Like I said, in rural areas with only one pharmacy and one pharmacist....there are lots of women going to be without their pills. Which pisses me the hell off. I'm waiting to see when men start getting denied their ED drugs or their cholesterol drugs or whatever. But, oddly enough, I haven't seen that yet. Wonder why? Hmp.