In yesterday's post on the proposed HHS abortion "conscience" regulation , I overlooked a very important quote from Secretary Leavitt. Rob Stein of the Washington Post relates the following exchange from Leavitt's Aug. 21 conference call with reporters:
But when pressed about whether the regulation would protect health-care workers who consider birth control pills, Plan B and other forms of contraception to be equivalent to abortion, Leavitt said: "This regulation does not seek to resolve any ambiguity in that area. It focuses on abortion and focuses on physicians' conscience in relation to that."
Ambiguity is precisely what pharmacists have asserted in lawsuits demanding the right to withhold hormonal contraceptives. While framing the regulation as neutral, Leavitt is lending support to their position. And, as noted yesterday, the regulation explicitly applies to pharmacies (see page 24 of the PDF ) which dispense contraceptives but do not perform surgical abortions.
When it comes to conscience rights, I'm a libertarian. As a pharmacist, you have every right to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But your customers have every right to boycott your store, and your employer has every right to fire you. If you don't like your employer's policy, open your own pharmacy .
The HHS regulation is not neutral. It uses government leverage to prevent employers from insisting that their employees honor consumer choice. In the name of one freedom, it suppresses another . And in the name of ambiguity, it lends official support to lawsuits that would extend this government intervention from abortion to contraception.
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