Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On your religious beliefs vs. my uterus

Okay, so I addressed this topic about five months ago, and at the time, I was kind of fence-straddley on the whole issue. My position has solidified quite a bit since then. Just in time, too, because as John tells us at AmericaBlog, Target is now allowing its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraception. For those who don’t know, Plan B isn’t an abortion pill; it simply a more concentrated dose of the same hormone found in many birth control pills; it stops ovulation or, when ovulation has already occurred, prevents the egg from becoming fertilized or, when fertilization has already occurred, prevents the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, which only happens fifty percent of the time anyway.

Just in case anyone was wondering: pro-lifers make lousy abortion doctors. Quadruplegics aren’t the greatest construction workers. Vegetarians make bad butchers, Quakers aren’t the best soldiers, agoraphobics tend to be poor bus drivers, and someone needs to tell Donald Trump not to be a sex therapist. If your religious beliefs prohibit you from filling prescriptions, maybe pharmacy isn’t the job for you. And if a girl comes in who was raped the night before and has this prescription for emergency contraception from her physician, and you’d rather self-righteously accuse her of wanting to kill that precious gift from God! Horrors! than fill her prescription, then pharmacy definitely isn’t the job for you.

Demure and deferential as I am, I felt the need to express the same feelings to Bob Ulrich, chairman and CEO of Target:

Dear Mr. Ulrich:

I was very disturbed to see that your company is now allowing your pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B emergency contraceptive. It’s a tough decision on your part to make, I know; I personally feel that a person’s religious beliefs shouldn’t prevent them from finding employment.

However, this issue goes farther than that, and I’m afraid it may go all the way to “if you don’t believe in distributing certain medications, don’t become a pharmacist.” It sounds kind of crass, I know, but that’s what it comes down to. Just as a person’s right to swing his fist ends at the tip of my nose, a pharmacist’s right to fill only those prescriptions that fit within his religious beliefs ends at my uterus. God forbid I should ever be the victim of rape, the last thing I’d need is a self-righteous pharmacist refusing me emergency contraception.

How far are you willing to go with Title VII? Will you allow a Catholic pharmacist to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills? Will a Scientologist pharmacist be allowed to refuse prescriptions for antidepressants? Can a Hindu clerk refuse to scan beef jerky, or can a Mormon clerk sell only caffeine-free Coke?

I have the greatest respect for the religious beliefs of others. I think that one of the strengths of this country is the fact that freedom of religion is built into its very foundation. But religious freedom, as codified in the Bill of Rights and in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, means that I will be free to practice my religion and honor my own religious beliefs; none of that gives me the right to impose my beliefs on other people.

You say that your policy “requires [your] pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest's prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner, either by another Target pharmacist or a different pharmacy.” The effort is appreciated, but it’s not good enough. I want a guarantee that any prescription I bring in to a Target pharmacy will be filled immediately and at that location. If you have one pharmacist who won’t fill a prescription, you should have another one available, immediately and on site, who will. Another person’s religious beliefs should not force me to wait any length of time or go to another pharmacy to get the medication a physician has decided that I need.

I hate to say it, because I love shopping at Target, but you’ve really screwed the pooch on this one. A lot of people share my feelings on this, and a lot of them are talking about a boycott. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that you made an honest mistake and are willing to rectify it. I encourage you to respect your employees’ religious beliefs, but you can only do so to the point that it interferes with my personal needs. If I can’t be sure that my prescriptions will be filled at my local Target, at the time that I visit, I’ll be forced to take my prescription, and the rest of my business, elsewhere.

A reply would be greatly appreciated.


Whether or not you plan to actually boycott Target, nothing will be accomplished if they don’t actually know how many people are, aherm, greatly displeased with their policy. Send a (thoughtful, respectful, sincere but passionate) message to CEO Robert Ulrich someone helpful, God willing at robert.ulrich@target.com guest.relations@target.com or
Target Corporation
Attn: Robert Ulrich
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403-2005

The first person to get a reply that’s more than your basic form letter wins, no kidding, a crisp $20 and a great big thank-you from Practically Harmless.

Update: Thanks to J of Red State for a Blue Girl for explaining the e-mail bounce-back mystery. As a high corporate muckety-muck, Bob Ulrich can't be contacted by the peons upon whom he depends for his salary. J suggests guest.relations@target.com as an alternative until I can find a way over/under/around/through to get to Bob directly.

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