An old anti-Catholic device

anticath 01It’s an old anti-Catholic journalistic device.

A reporter writes about a controversial cultural issue such as contraception or abortion. Opponents are identified by their religious denomination. Supporters are not. The lesson for readers is plain: opponents are motivated by religious zeal, while supporters are motivated by humanitarianism and sweet reason.

Plenty of otherwise great journalists have committed this journalistic sin. In the late 1960s, Sydney Schanberg of The New York Times wrote about legislation to liberalize the state of New York’s abortion laws. Schanberg’s stories invariably referred to abortion opponents as Catholics, while abortion supporters were never identified by their religious background or lack thereof.

Now reporter Rob Stein of The Washington Post adds his name to this illustrious list.

Stein wrote about pharmacy stores that refuse to stock contraceptives. The first third of his story was largely unexceptional. He told readers about the controversy over conscience clauses: individual pharmacists assert a right to refuse to sell contraceptives for moral or religious reasons, while some ethicists and professional groups assert that the health concerns of patients trump an individual’s conscience. He also let both sides make their case.

But in the middle third of the story, Stein identified opponents by their religious affiliation while not identifying supporters by the same. Here is one example:

“We try to practice pharmacy in a way that we feel is best to help our community and promote healthy lifestyles,” said Lloyd Duplantis, who owns Lloyd’s Remedies in Gray, La., and is a deacon in his Catholic church. “After researching the science behind steroidal contraceptives, I decided they could hurt the woman and possibly hurt her unborn child. I decided to opt out.”

Some critics question how such pharmacies justify carrying drugs, such as Viagra, for male reproductive issues, but not those for women.

“Why do you care about the sexual health of men but not women?” asked Anita L. Nelson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “If he gets his Viagra, why can’t she get her contraception?”

Lest you think I complain too much, here is another example:

The DMC Pharmacy opening in August marks an expansion by Divine Mercy Care in Fairfax, a nonprofit health-care organization that adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The group runs the Tepeyac Family Center, an obstetrics-gynecology practice in Fairfax that offers “natural family planning” instead of contraceptives, sterilization or abortion.

“We’re trying not to leave our faith at the door,” said John Bruchalski, who chairs the group’s board of directors, noting that one of the organization’s major goals is helping needy, uninsured patients obtain health care. “We’re trying to create an environment where belief and professionalism come together.”

Like the doctors, nurses and other staff members at Tepeyac, Robert Semler, the pharmacist who will run DMC Pharmacy, plans to start each workday with a prayer with his staff, which at first will just be his wife, Pam, a nurse.

And then there is this:

“If you are a health-care professional, you are bound by professional obligations,” said Nancy Berlinger, deputy director of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank in Garrison, N.Y. “You can’t say you won’t do part of that profession.”

This is not fair or balanced. It’s political. Stein is leaving readers with a subtle but unmistakable message: Duplantis and Semler seek to impose their Catholic morality on others, while Nelson and Berlinger are operating from altruism.

Now maybe Duplantis and Semler volunteered their religious affiliation. In that case, I think that Stein needed to relay this information to readers. He would have shown that he was seeking to be objective and fair.

Suppose Duplantis and Semler did not volunteer the information. In that case, Stein was obligated to record whether Nelson and Berlinger said their views were influenced by their religious views or lack of same. That’s just an issue of fairness.

Some GR readers may believe that my assessment of Stein’s story is uncharitable. But does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? I don’t know. Whatever the case, reporters have used this anti-Catholic and anti-religious canard for decades. It’s time to retire it.

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  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Let me be clear: I fully support the rights of these professionals to practice according to their conscience. At the same time, while many Christian communities, and individual Christians, oppose abortion, there is only one major Christian body which opposes all contraception, and that is the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, identifying the religious affiliation of these folks is simply a matter of specifying context. Conversely, the religious affiliation of those opposed to such “freedom of conscience” provisions would only be relevant, I think, if they too identified as Roman Catholic.

  • http://catholidoxy.blogspot.com Irenaeus

    How about this for balance: “…asked Anita L. Nelson, an irreligious professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA…”

  • Michael

    This is not fair or balanced. It’s political. Stein is leaving readers with a subtle but unmistakable message: Duplantis and Semler seek to impose their Catholic morality on others, while Nelson and Berlinger are operating from altruism.

    But Duplantis and Semler are seeking to impose their Catholic morality by opening up businesses catering to people who agree on that moral position. That’s the purpose of their businesses. If you advertise on a website for pro-life pharamacys or run a health care entity based on Catholic traditions, you clearly have that as a motivating factor.

    In contrast, the doctor and think tank expert haven’t put their faith front and center in their advocacy. I’d agree there would be bias if Duplantis and Semler never focused on their faith as a rationale for their businesses, but that’s not the case here.

    If you set up a business based on your religion and you are up front about that, I’m not sure pointing that out is bias. The doctor didn’t become a professor because of faith and the think-tank expert apparantly didn’t become an expert based on faith, so it is of no consequence what their religious beliefs are.

  • Martha

    But Mark – everyone knows that the reason the Catholic Church forbids contraception is because they want loads of babies so there will be $$$$$ in the collection baskets at church! Why, just last night I read that argument online!

  • Brian Walden

    I can give Stein the benefit of the doubt on this. The people identified in the story were all acting on their Catholic faith which is why they were all described as Catholic. It would have been hard to describe their position with it. On the other hand it didn’t seem that faith was a specific factor in the positions taken by the other side.

    Although I do have to question what’s being asked here:
    Some critics question how such pharmacies justify carrying drugs, such as Viagra, for male reproductive issues, but not those for women.

    “Why do you care about the sexual health of men but not women?” asked Anita L. Nelson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “If he gets his Viagra, why can’t she get her contraception?”

  • Brian Walden

    oops, I accidentally hit submit. Anyway comparing contraception to ED treatment seems like apples and oranges. Can someone explain how they compare to each other (other than they’re both commonly found in pill form)?

  • Dan Crawford

    Wal-Mart doesn’t sell all the products it could carry. Is this an ethical violation that requires a protest? What’s the big deal? A pharmacist won’t sell what he believes may be harmful – doesn’t a retailer have the right to decide what s/he will sell or not sell?

    The comment by the Hastings Center representative is a rather thoughtless remark for what has been historically a fairly thoughtful institution. Perhaps they have been taken over by the “feel first then think – maybe” crowd.

    The press doesn’t get religion. And it will always be so. Which is why this blog has such a bright future.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mark Stricherz

    Fr. Greg writes,

    while many Christian communities, and individual Christians, oppose abortion, there is only one major Christian body which opposes all contraception, and that is the Roman Catholic Church. Therefore, identifying the religious affiliation of these folks is simply a matter of specifying context. Conversely, the religious affiliation of those opposed to such “freedom of conscience” provisions would only be relevant, I think, if they too identified as Roman Catholic.

    I disagree. Contra Michael, Duplantis’ comments did not mention religion. (One suspects that his Catholicism plays a role, but where is the proof?) If Duplantis’ religion is mentioned, then that of Nelson and Berlinger should have, too. That’s a matter of fairness.

    Michael writes,

    But Duplantis and Semler are seeking to impose their Catholic morality by opening up businesses catering to people who agree on that moral position. That’s the purpose of their businesses. If you advertise on a website for pro-life pharamacys or run a health care entity based on Catholic traditions, you clearly have that as a motivating factor.

    In contrast, the doctor and think tank expert haven’t put their faith front and center in their advocacy. I’d agree there would be bias if Duplantis and Semler never focused on their faith as a rationale for their businesses, but that’s not the case here.

    Duplantis’ quote does not refer to religion or theology, so Michael’s point strikes me as invalid.

  • Jerry

    Mark,

    You’re asking for such stories to say, Fred, a committed member of the XXX Evangelicl Church said which says YYY about contraception says and Jill, a member of the ZZZ Baptist church which said AAA about birth control said (etc). Religious belief should be mentioned if and only if it’s relevant to the story. In the case of the Catholic church it’s relevant for birth control.

    If the issue was abortion, then I do think it’s relevant to mention the religious background. I did just that in my post to the prior blog topic: that Douglas Kmiec is a committed Catholic is totally relevant to understanding his background and what he wrote about being an Obama supporter.

    But there’s a larger point. I think you’re overly focused on the Catholic church. I heard multiple gay marriage stories today and many did mention the religious background of the ministers performing the same-sex marriages and those outside who were protesting. That was relevant.

    So I don’t think people are picking on the Catholic church so much as responding to the areas where church doctrine is not only significantly different than other groups but also where that doctrine results in a conflict of rights as in people’s right to buy contraceptives versus someone’s right not to sell them.

  • Michael

    Duplantis is one of seven pharmacies on the website that promote themselves as “pro-life pharmacies.” He’s created a business based around his religious beliefs and promotes it as such.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mark Stricherz

    Jerry writes,

    Religious belief should be mentioned if and only if it’s relevant to the story. In the case of the Catholic church it’s relevant for birth control.

    If the issue was abortion, then I do think it’s relevant to mention the religious background.

    It’s also relevant that Protestant denominations and many seculars support birth control. In the interest of fairness, reporters should mention this, too.

    You say I am overly focused on the Catholic church. I don’t think that you and other knowledgeable GR readers grasp the severity of anti-Catholic prejudice that existed in this country, and still exists to a lesser extent. No other major religious denomination had to create an entire school system separate from the public schools. Until several decades ago, Catholics were barred from many professions.

  • Memphis Aggie

    Michael,

    In a free market system no one of forced to use the Duplantis pharmacy so the term “imposed” is an overstatement. In our free system people who want contraceptives can just go else where, it’s not like there’s a shortage of pharmacies. What if a Baptist runs a restaurant and refuses to serve wine? Would you argue that he is “imposing” his view on his customers? I would argue it’s his right to sell or not sell whatever he cares to.

  • http://makeitsafeandlegal.blogspot.com/ Jack Picknell

    It’s only a matter of time before the HR departments at mainstream media companies demand to see your Secular Humanist ID Card before you can get on their payroll.

    One cannot agree with the feminist argument unless they also insist that McDonalds serve lamb souvlaki, sushi, tandoori chicken, and all other types and varieties of foods at all of their outlets.

    Market segmentation into pro-life, anti-life is a valid demographic separation. To cater to one demographic is perfectly sound business practice. You can be sure that non-etics based pharmacies will open competitive pro-life facilities and try to grab market share once they see the enormous success these pro-life pharmacies have.

    The atheist secularists have been imposing their agenda on us for too long. They rage that religion and state must be separated, and they want Catholics isolated. It’s time to do as our Lord commanded when He said “whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” Let us go the extra mile and separate and isolate. “What fellowship has light with darkness?” “come out from among them”.

    Let those who have the skills found the Catholic-only HMO. The Catholic community has enormous resources including thousands of already established medical facilities, and a host of Catholic medical professionals that are dying to practice medicine in accord with their consciences.

    The Catholic US population of about 70 Million is larger then the entire populations of either France or Britain, both of which have full service health care for their entire populations. Certainly a Catholic HMO in the US would thrive and provide the worlds best possible health care consistent with the Catholic life affirmative ethos.

    The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic only insurance company that ranks above most of the top insurers in the world. Why not an HMO?

  • http://www.InklingBooks.com/ Mike Perry

    Those who’d like a detailed history of how Catholics beliefs about contraception were developed might want to read John Noonan’s excellent Contraception: A History of its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists.

    Keep in mind that most journalists know very little history and even their memory of events that take place in their lifetime is seriously flawed. That ill is, if anything, getting worse as financial issues drive papers to work their staff harder and harder and all the media databases, create a sort of ‘once wrong, always wrong’ climate, that makes correcting mistakes difficult.

    For race issues, for instance, few journalists seem to recall anything before the early 1960s, when segregation was chiefly defended by the Democratic party, including LBJ, whose record depriving Southern blacks of voting rights in the 1950s contrasts dramatically with what Ike was trying to do to expand those rights. Even the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 were passed chiefly with Republican support and over the opposition of many Democrats. That fact escapes the thinking of most journalists, who function as if the Democrats were the party that fought slavery and segregation.

    Journalists seemed to have learned little since the late sixties, when the complexity of race issues, including the often destructive role black culture began to be obvious. They seemed trapped in a time warp circa 1964, remaining even today oblivious to the implications of Moynihan’s controversial 1965 report on the status of the black family. In short, journalists often have a “story,’ which is established in a brief series of events, that they repeat over and over, often in defiance of the facts. Nothing changes as the years pass, until another short window comes along when reporters again briefly think and form a new fixed point of view, which becomes the new “story.”

    To give an example, nothing the Clintons did in the 1990s caused reporters to reconsider their initial enthusiasm for Bill. Only recently when Hillary got in the way of their enthusiasm for Obama did they rethink their views about the pair, regarding them much more negatively. And that new attitude is unlikely to change, even if subsequent events demonstrate that Hillary is right, that Obama isn’t up to the job of being President, at 3 am or any other time. Brief flashes of insight, often one-sided, followed by decades of dogma. That’s how the press functions.

    They’re even more ignorant about issues such as contraception. Until the 1920s, both Catholics and Protestants opposed the wide promotion of contraceptive use as destructive to important social values concerning marriage and sexuality. The first change in the Protestant point of view came at the 1930 Lambeth Conference, relatively recently in the almost 2000-year history of Christianity. Liberal Protestants now regard their support for contraception promotion with a smugness that seems blind to the fact that the dire predictions made about what would happen when contraceptive use was widely promoted have come true.

    Conservative Protestants didn’t really change their point of view as simply not have one. Focused theologically on a small set of dogmas called “The Fundamentals” and spiritually on issues of personal piety, even today they devote little attention to the broader social implications of issues like birth control. And Evangelicalism’s obsession with evangelism and church growth tends to keep them away from anything controversial. In their pursuit of niceness, there are few fights they aren’t willing to run away from.

    Finally, keep in mind something that only comes out occasionally in the press. The original goal of birth controllers in this country was to suppress the birth rate of recent immigrants, particularly Catholics from Southern Europe and Jews from Eastern Europe. Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Federation of America (today’s Planned Parenthood) was working in parallel with those who wanted immigration restriction laws and those who wanted forced sterilization. All were working to stop the breeding of those they considered “unfit.”

    You can read the actual arguments the early twentieth century promoters of birth control were using in my The Pivot of Civilization in Historical Perspective. It was, as one writer termed it, scientific racism, and my book provides the intellectual and scientific background to Margaret Sanger’s 1922 bestseller, The Pivot of Civilization. To draw a parallel with racism against black people, birth control was the “rope” that affluent, progressive people intended to use to get rid of Catholics. That’s why I tell people that Catholic dislike of Planned Parenthood is as justified as black dislike of the Klan. (And would you believe that Sanger spoke at least once to a group of Klan women, who liked what she had to say.)

    One final note, Catholics and Evangelicals are talking about this topic and in some cases the Catholics are being persuasive. Catholics can point out that their warnings that contraceptives would lead to legalized abortion proved true even though the champions of birth control, including Sanger herself, were claiming (dishonestly) that birth control would prevent the “evil of abortion.” I doubt this issue will remain a Catholic issue.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  • Jay

    Setting aside Mark’s concern about anti-Catholic prejudice, I think Mark and Memphis Aggie are onto something more basic: economic ignorance and freedom of association.

    An organic health food store is not required to stock Nutrasweet or Splenda for overweight or diabetic customers. Why should the pro-life pharmacy stock contraceptives?

    It would be one thing if a pro-life pharmacy denied an unmarried mother (or mother-to-be) lifesaving care (which BTW is not likely). But to walk into a pharmacy and say “I want to have sex but not get pregnant,” the pharmacist can say “sorry, we don’t stock those products. Try Rite-Aid down the street.”

  • FW Ken

    “After researching the science behind steroidal contraceptives, I decided they could hurt the woman and possibly hurt her unborn child. I decided to opt out.”

    That’s from a phamacist who also is also a Catholic deacon. So is it his research or his religion talking? Heaven forbid Catholic doctrine might be sound science! That would violate the separation of church and science enshrined in our Constitution and innumerable blogs.

    This was a deeply manipulative article, and raises, through it’s bias, of why the “liberals” need absolute control over those who disagree with them. I mean, that the DMC pharmacy doesn’t carry condoms, but I’ll bet the Kmart in the same center does. So what’s the problem?

  • eliana

    There’s a new kind of drug store in town. And they don’t sell birth control pills, or the morning after pill, or condoms, or anything else that makes Jesus cry. They’re called DMC Pharmacy, a Christian drug store that thinks sex is for making babies and nothing else. So come on down to DMC, the Pro-Life pharmacy where you can buy all the Vicodin you want, just make sure not to wear any condoms when you have some of that hot and sloppy Pill-Sex. Check out their circular for great deals: http://www.236.com/news/2008/06/16/finally_a_drug_store_thats_not_7169.php

  • ArchdukeFranz

    I would also like to bring to your attention this line from the story:

    “The group runs the Tepeyac Family Center, an obstetrics-gynecology practice in Fairfax that offers “natural family planning” instead of contraceptives, sterilization or abortion.”

    Interesting how the author put natural family planning in quotation marks. I think it shows that he views NFP with derision or he’s not sure what NFP is. If a reporter is writing a story about contraception, shouldn’t he have at least some understanding on what NFP is?

    The broader point of the story is that once something is generally accepted by society (articifical contraception in this case), that it must then be enforced on everyone in the community, regardless of their personal beliefs. And if someone holds beliefs to the contrary, the line of attack is that they are “insensitive” to some group (women, rape victims) or that they are imposing their religious beliefs on the rest of the population.

    It seems to me that it is merely a matter of time before some group demands that kosher meat markets carry pork products. Why not — aren’t they imposing their religious beliefs on consumers? And what is there is no other meat market in town?

  • Brian Walden

    Arch, I think natural family planning is in quotes because it refers to a specific group of techniques – for example I don’t think people would consider the outdated rhythm method a part of NFP even though it’s a natural way of planning a family. I wonder if it might have been better to capitalize it rather than use quotes, but I’m not sure if it’s usually capitalized or not – I’m used to just seeing the acronym NFP. But if it was wrong to put quotes around the term, my guess is it’s more because of innocent ignorance than purposely trying to use square quotes. The public at large has no idea about what natural family planning is, my guess the reporter was just trying to draw attention to it as a clinical term.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Duplantis is one of seven pharmacies on the website that promote themselves as “pro-life pharmacies.” He’s created a business based around his religious beliefs and promotes it as such.

    Are you saying that the only folks who are pro-life are those who share the religious beliefs of Duplantis? Or that all pro-life people are pro-life based solely on their religious beliefs? Or that by marketing a pharmacy as pro-life Duplantis is attempting to appeal only to those who share his religious beliefs?

    But Duplantis and Semler are seeking to impose their Catholic morality by opening up businesses catering to people who agree on that moral position.

    If I target people who care about the life of the unborn, then I am seeking to impose my morality on everyone. That’s classic! I guess if I target people who want low-calorie foods, then I am seeking to impose my dietary preferences on everyone.

  • Jerry

    Mark, I’ll grant the prejudice is historically true – I’m old enough to remember it from my youth including the uproar about JFK. I could be wrong, but I think there’s much less now.

  • FW Ken

    I haven’t seen this noted lately, so here it is: the sourcebook on things anti-Catholic:

    The New Anti-Catholicism/The Last Acceptable Prejudice.

    The most interesting aspect of the book is that Phillip Jenkins, the author is an ex-Catholic, now Episcopalian.

  • Julia

    “Why do you care about the sexual health of men but not women?” asked Anita L. Nelson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “If he gets his Viagra, why can’t she get her contraception?”

    Reporter failed to note that Viagra is meant to fix something that has gone wrong biologically, whereas contraception is meant to interfere with normal biology.

    Insurance companies for many years refused to pay for birth control devices and/or pharmaceuticals for that very reason. In fact, that may still be the case. They don’t pay for prophylactics and, if it’s ever invented, they won’t pay for male contraceptive pills, either.

    Women may want fairness, but including methods of contraception in something called sexual or reproductive health to achieve parity is really non-sensical. Why do reporters breeze past such illogical arguments without a question?

    In fact, those who took the pill during the 60s when it was very new were guinea pigs for the beta version with unnecessarily huge amounts of hormones. IUDs didn’t do much for our sexual health either. It’s the purpose of contraception to render normal reproductive functioning inoperable, not to restore its function.

  • Dave

    This is a fascinating discussion that got very far away from whether journalists who mention the religion of people interviewed on one side of a hot issue should mention that of interviewees on the other side.

    I think they should, for a crass political reason. The quick construction of too many of these moral issues is that all the religious people are on one side, and only irreligious people are on the other. This frame is sometimes promoted by the former in order to impugn the latter. I’d like to see reporters report the religious affiliations, if any, of all participants.

    BTW some California media are doing so. Someone sent me links to nine stories that mention the activities of Unitarian Universalists on this pivotal day.

  • Filipe d’Avillez

    Filipe, a devout practising catholic, says:

    Although I agree that there is bias in the article, I don’t think it stems from identifying the religion of some but not of others.
    Those who are identified as religious are clearly motivated by their catholicism. There is nothing wrong with this.
    More important than identifying their opponents by their religion, would be perhaps to mention, if relevant, their views on the abortion issue, so that we can gather whether they are ideologically motivated or just 100% pure rational scientists.

    I am more worried about Natural Family Planning being placed in scare quotes than learning that so and so is a catholic deacon. That, in my opinion, is what shows true entrenched bias. On one hand we have birth control pills, on the other we have “natural family planning” aka “the method in which you either abstain for 29 days a month, or end up having 150 children”.

    Somebody mentioned that the catholic church had had to set up an entire parrallel school system because of discrimination. Although I don’t deny that discrimination was/is real, I think the catholic school system is a tradition that can be found in many countries, including those with a large catholic majority, or where the church is not discriminated against.

  • Dave

    Filipe, I’ve heard from other sources that the Catholic school system in the US was set up in the 19th Century in response to the fact that the public school system was at that time drenched in Protestant practices.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    “But Duplantis and Semler are seeking to impose their Catholic morality by opening up businesses catering to people who agree on that moral position. That’s the purpose of their businesses.”

    Huh? Is someone who runs a kosher restaurant seeking to “impose” the Mosaic law on, er, somebody or other? Oh, or is it restaurants that serve NON-kosher food that are trying to “impose” their rules on Jews?

    As Arthur Dent would say, this must be some strange sense of “impose” I was not previously familiar with.

  • Dave

    Will, the imposition is in the nature of the market. There’s a wide variety of kosher foods that can fill the product line of a restaurant, and there is of course an even wider variety of non-kosher foods. Two restaurants, one offering each type, could flourish side by side, preserving the customer’s choice.

    Pharmacies are fewer and farther between, because they offer pretty much the same range of products and need a larger market area. Suddenly finding the pharmacist you’ve counted on for your cold and allergy meds refusing what is often an emergency prescription, creates a hassle that infringes on the customer’s choice.

    There’s also the action of some anti-abortion pharmacists in refusing to return the prescription to the customer. That means getting another prescription and, in an emergency, can extinguish the customer’s choice altogether. That’s imposing their will.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Come on, Dave. We’re talking about Fairfax, VA and other suburbs of D.C. Fairfax County has one of the highest per-household incomes in the country. Pharmacies are not few and far between there.

    You paint an interesting picture of someone in the dire predicament of not being able to get his or her emergency prescription filled because his or her previously reliable pharmacist has gone over to the dark side and there is no one else who can fill the prescription. Horrors! In this case, however, it’s a fantasy.

    Many in the press don’t understand Marketing. Please don’t follow their lead.

  • Dave

    Chris,

    My “dire fantasy” has actually happened. You need to be more in touch with people you disagree with to get the news of what’s actually happening on the ground.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Dave, you stated that “the imposition is in the nature of the market” and then implied that the market is homogeneous across the U.S. That’s simply not the case. If the pharmacies discussed in the article have a near-monopoly on their markets and are refusing to fill truly emergency prescriptions in those markets, then please produce evidence to that effect.

    What the pharmacies mentioned in the article are doing is providing customers with an alternative to established competitors. That’s not imposing your will or imposing your morality; it’s simply a smart business practice. If you disagree with the practices of a pharmacy, go to another one. You have plenty from which to choose in Fairfax County, VA or, for that matter, Gray, LA. Check the Yellow Pages.

  • Dave

    Chris,

    In the article there is almost an aside:

    California, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington state recently began requiring pharmacies to fill all prescriptions or help women fill them elsewhere

    The requirement “or help women fill them elsewhere” is your tipoff that in at least four states the “dire fantasy” I presented has been a reality or considered likely enough to be worth regulating.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Here is another in our series of stories that will never be published.

    Holistic Pharmacies Market Beliefs
    No Flu Shots for Suburban Shop

    By Michael Balance
    Big City Post-Times Staff Writer

    When Friendly Pharmacy opens this summer on Big Highway in Flyoverville, the shelves will be stocked with holistic treatments, herbal remedies, and alternative medicines. But if you want many standard pharmaceuticals or flu shots, you’ll have to go to Satan-Mart just outside of town. That’s because Friendly Pharmacy will be a “pro-alternative pharmacy”.

    The pharmacy is one of a small but growing number of drugstores around the country that have become the latest front in a conflict pitting patients’ rights against those of health-care workers who assert a “right of conscience” to refuse to provide care or products that they find objectionable.

    “The United States was founded on the idea that people act on their conscience — that they have a sense of right and wrong and do what they think is right and moral,” said Joe Lawyer, who is defending a pharmacist who was fined and reprimanded for refusing to fill prescriptions for a popular antibiotic. “Every pharmacist has the right to do the same thing,” Lawyer said.

    But critics say the stores could create dangerous obstacles for people seeking widely approved medicines and, as a result, could cause widespread illness in communities.

    “I’m very, very troubled by this,” said Marcia Blowhard of the National Pharmaceutical Center, a Washington advocacy group. “Pharmaceuticals are essential for everyone’s health. A pharmacy like this is walling off an essential part of health care. That could endanger the health of people who use unproven non-pharmaceutical approaches and, in addition, the health of those around them.”

    The pharmacies are emerging at a time when a growing number of health-care workers are refusing to administer some pharmaceuticals, even though those drugs are FDA-approved and proven to be effective and to have minimal side effects. Some pharmacists say they believe that over-prescription of some pharmaceuticals can lead to diseases that are resistant to all medicines. Others oppose vaccines due to beliefs that overuse of vaccines, especially in small children, have contributed to recent increases in cases of autism. Some even oppose flu shots for similar reasons, citing beliefs that flu shots are generally ineffective.

    Some pro-alternative pharmacies are identical to typical drugstores except that they do not stock certain pharmaceuticals. While free and low-cost flu shots have become popular at some pharmacies, pro-alternative pharmacies refuse to offer them. Some such pharmacies refuse to sell alcohol and processed foods. Instead, they offer “alternative” products, including vitamins and homeopathic and herbal remedies.

    “We try to practice pharmacy in a way that we feel is best to help our community and promote healthy lifestyles,” said Larry Liberal, who owns Larry’s Remedies in Nowhere, IN, and is a member of an Episcopal church. “After researching the science behind many pharmaceuticals and vaccines, I decided they could hurt people. I decided to opt out.”

    Some critics question how such pharmacies justify carrying some drugs for adults but not popular antibiotics for children.

    “Why do you care about the health of adults and not children?” asked Polly Anna, a professor of pediatrics at the Irrelevant Rocker School of Medicine at Hollywood University. “If adults can quit smoking, why can’t kids get some relief from ear infections?”

    etc.

  • Dave

    Chris, that’s brilliant. Submit it to Onion.