The State's Morality

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New Jersey legislature has passed
a law
that forces pharmacists to fill any prescription, even
if they morally object to such medication. Obviously the main points
of contention with such legislation are birth-control and morning-after
pills. While I don’t personally object to women taking birth-control
pills, this type of thinking worries and angers me, as it should
any purported defender of freedom.

At the root
of this type of “morality” is a fundamental lack of understanding
of basic human rights. Ask a liberal state-worshipper why a patient
(or a doctor) can force his values on a pharmacist but the pharmacist
can’t simply refrain from participating in what he considers an
immoral act, and the statist will stare at you like a deer in headlights,
or spout some nonsense about the doctor’s prescription superseding
the pharmacist’s beliefs or the pharmacist’s obligation to society,
or some such. Note that the refusal by a pharmacist to fill a birth-control
prescription involves no coercion and no pushing of his beliefs
on anyone; he simply refuses to participate in it and lets the customer
go elsewhere. (That many such people have often tried and still
try to force their religious beliefs on others through government
is another issue that often needs talking about, but not here.)

Michael Panter says, “They should have gone into the priesthood
and not the pharmacy.” Maybe in addition to the state forcing people
out of their vocation of choice, the government should in fact select
and train everybody for every profession in the economy!

Linda Stender says this bill “protects [women’s] freedom. Under
no circumstances should a pharmacist’s personal beliefs impede a
patient’s ability to obtain their prescribed medicines.” Well, we
went pretty quickly from freedom (rights) to ability. I guess
since I have the right to free speech but no one will hire me as
a talk-radio show host because my beliefs and opinions conflict
with theirs, they should be forced to hire me and broadcast me for
the same length of time as anyone else.

A pharmacist’s
refraining from filling a prescription is not impeding anyone’s
doing anything. Human rights are said to be negative, not positive.
This means you have a right for no one to force you to do
anything you don’t want; it doesn’t mean you can force someone to
accommodate you in exercising your rights (real or imagined).

Since pharmacists’
beliefs are apparently subordinate to those of the doctors who write
the prescriptions, and pharmacists apparently have an obligation
to violate their beliefs in the interests of “society” (the majority),
maybe the feminists and other leftists would apply this principle
to other political issues. As they love government and put their
faith in the professional criminal class to effect positive change
in society, they would certainly agree that the decisions of the
Congress and the president supersede the antisocial beliefs of maverick
individualists who reject the unjust governance of the majority
and just want to live in peace. Therefore, when the state decides
that another country or terrorist group is a dire threat to the
livelihood of all Americans, this decision must render contrary
opinions irrelevant. Then, when the state decides that 18–22-year-olds
have an obligation to society to kill or be killed by these malicious
foreigners, it must represent perfect justice and morality to force
them to go fight in a war even though it violates their beliefs
and everything they stand for in life.

Oh, you mean
these people support coercion and violation of others’ rights only
when it serves their political agenda? Well, I am just shocked and

I could go
on and on about the state gaining ever more control over the health-care
industries, and in the future more and more sectors of society,
and how soon nearly everyone will be considered a servant of the
state, with an obligation to carry out its commands, but it would
be treading old ground with LRC readers.

14, 2007

Petrie [send him mail]
is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia majoring in genetics.

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