Wednesday, April 20, 2005

April 19, 2005

You Want MORE Pills?

Apparently the next evolutionary step for a fully mature democracy is to allow every citizen to do whatever the hell they want. That seems to be the message we are getting from the far right. Laws are all well and good – but only as long as you personally agree with them. When a law runs counter to your own personal conscience/religion/superstition/phobia or compulsion, just make your own rule.

That seems to be the point being made by right-wing pharmacists who are encouraging similarly inclined pharmacists to refuse to fill certain lawful medical prescriptions. As is so often the case with things that bother conservatives this is about sex.

The meds these government-licensed professionals object to involve those that control conception; birth control pills, condoms and now, the so-called “morning after” pill. They are simply refusing to fill such prescriptions, saying doing so would violate their religious or personal beliefs.

So, what’s that state license hanging on their pharmacy wall mean -- anything at all? Not much if you listen to what those who want the right to decide for the public they were licensed to serve. Just listen to what Illinois state Senator Frank Watson had to say when Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered pharmacies, including the Watson family pharmacy, to fill prescriptions for women wanting the new "morning after" pill, even if it meant putting aside their employees' personal views.

"The governor is trying to make a decision that must be left to the pharmacy," said Senator Watson, whose family business, Watson's Drug Store in Greenville, Ill., does not stock the pill. "It's an infringement on a business decision and also on the pharmacist's right of conscience." (Full Story)

Ah, so we are not now a nation of laws, but a nation of individual conscience. I see. Do you have to be a Christian pharmacist to exercise this new right? Or is it just for right-wing pill pushers? I want to know because I have a long list of things I am being forced to pay for through taxes that offend my personal conscience too. Can I stop paying my share of the war in Iraq, for example? Capital punishment, I want to stop paying for that too. If I withhold just those from my share of taxes would it be okay, or would it land me in a cell at Ft. Leavenworth? I am against those things, they are wrong in my mind – ah, I mean in “my conscience.” They are against my secular humanist religion too.

There is a bright side to this story though. The biggest contributors to the GOP have been the pharmaceutical companies. Their money helped put these right-wingnuts in power. And now that they are at the controls they are doing what nuts do. When it comes to a choice between money and votes, they will always go for the votes. In this case the votes they value most are those of religious right wing groups who have all kinds of “issues,” that have nothing to do with science or the drug company’s bottom lines.

Those drug companies have spent billions of dollars complying with the law to bring these drugs to market. They jumped all kinds of regulatory hurdles to get that stuff on the shelf. Tens of millions were spent getting FDA approval. Now, after all that, some tight-ass, holier-than-though pharmacist in Dog Patch is going to refuse to sell thier drugs. And you expect the drug companies to let that happen? Not a chance. (You might say this issue is pregnant with political opportunities. You might.. but I won't)

If pharmacists can decide which drugs they will and will not provide, where will end? Can Viagra et al, not be next? Can it be long before some whacko pharmacist decides that heart attacks are God’s way of calling us home and refuses to “artificially extend lives” by selling drugs that combat heart attacks? You laugh?

Even if this trend only limits availability of contraceptives it threatens drug company investments in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And it’s not just the drug companies that should worry. Drugstores, even those that continue to fill these prescriptions, should worry. And they have good reason to worry, because both nature and commerce abhor a vacuum. Once customers are inconvenienced by this nonsense, we will see a robust online contraceptive mail order industry spring up to fill that demand.

And recent history shows that once people discover a convenient way to buy anything online that they consume regularly, they never go back to the store for it again. You doubt that premise? Okay, here’s a little experiment you can do yourself. Walk into your local Blockbuster video store, look the manager right in the eye and shout: “NetFlix.” '

Then run.

I have been predicting for the past three years that once conservative Americans see what right-wingers do once they get into power, they will work day and night to get them out of power. That process has finally begun. When they voted for these guys they thought they were getting people who would control spending and defend us from those who would do us harm. Instead they got this:

* Budgets: The biggest government deficits in the history of bipods.
* War and Peace: Two wars and itching for a third.
* Diplomacy: a crazed (rhetorical) bomb-thrower nominated as our ambassador to the UN.
* Spying: the guy who, under Ronald Reagan, managed US aid to South America’s dirty wars, appointed to head our new master spy agency.
* No Child Left Behind: has hit schools in conservative rural areas squarely in the frontal lobes. (Er you sayin’ my kids is stooped?”)
* Medicare, Medicaid: both on the ropes, something that will hit more Red States harder than the Blue ones.
* Social Security “reform:” another scare for Red State voters where the promise of a guaranteed monthly $1500 government check at 65 has been and remains the only carrot at the end of their life’s stick.
* Jobs. What jobs? Wal-Mart? Thanks a lot.
* Inflation. some already – a whole lot more just round the bend.
* State Rights: Forget about it. Feds rule now – a development that should just tickle all those militia types who voted for Bush because of Waco and Ruby Ridge.
* Homeland Security: While our southern border remains wide open, if someone checks a suspicious book out of a local library the FBI will swarm their house. (“Just drop the DaVinci Code and no one gets hurts.”)
* Religion and Government: This one has not gotten through to them quite yet, but it will. When government starts pandering to religions there is no end to it. Right-wingers might love to see the Ten Commandments on their local Courthouse lawn, but they will hate it when someone plants a Star of David next to it. And they will really hate it when the Hindu Goddess, Shiva (pictured right)is placed on the other side of their sacred tablets. And that’s when fundamentalist Christian voters will discover that there is nothing they can do about it. Say hello to the law of unintended results.

Okay, so back to our conscious-burdened pharmacists. Lawmakers need to have the following little heart to heart chat with these folks, and here’s how that chat should go:

“We understand and respect that you have strong religious/personal objections to providing customers with certain legal medications. We had a similar problem in the military with conscious objectors, men and women who object to war. And so we made allowances for this by saying they don’t have to serve in the military. Likewise, if you cannot fulfill your statutory obligations as a state and federally licensed dispenser of all legal medications, then you don’t have to. Just find another line of work.”

I suspect Pfizer agrees, is watching this closely and has already sent a secretary off to find the mailing address for the DNC.

Which brings me to the 2006 mid-term elections and the 2008 Presidential race. May I suggest a GOP slogan for both:

“Hey everyone, how are we doin’?”

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