With All Due Respect,

Your Holiness, I believe your argument has a fundamental flaw.

Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that pharmacists have a right to use conscientious objection to avoid dispensing emergency contraception or euthanasia drugs – and told them they should also inform patients of the ethical implications of using such drugs. 

Benedict told a gathering of Catholic pharmacists that conscientious objection was a right that must be recognized by the pharmaceutical profession.

Pharmacists must seek to raise people’s awareness so that all human beings are protected from conception to natural death, and so that medicines truly play a therapeutic role,” Benedict said.

Conscientious objectors are people who avoid a line of work (e.g. military service) because of moral objections to a fundamental practice of that profession (e.g. killing people.) Moreover, the role of conscientious objector has meaning only because such persons would otherwise be compelled to adopt that role (e.g. be drafted.)

The analogy breaks down because

1. Pharmacists already have taken on the role of pharmacist.
2. No one compelled them to become pharmacists.
3. Dispensing legal pharmaceuticals is fundamental to the profession of pharmacy.

And the broader issue is one of extensiveness. Should a relatively small number of sectarian practitioners petition for the right to exercise “conscience clauses” for perfectly legal health related products, it is a small matter if their numbers remain small. However, when it becomes plausible that broad geographical swaths of the United States could become dominated by such exercisers of “conscience clauses,” we would in effect have developed “Griswold v. Connecticut free zones.”  Not only would this challenge the First Amendment, it would also call Article III into question.


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