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We continue to get email about our story concerning the Ohio woman who has filed a complaint against Wal-Mart with the state as well as with an abortion rights group, charging that a Wal-Mart pharmacist wouldn't give her Plan B morning-after contraceptive pills that don't require a prescription. The pharmacist is not denying the charge, but rather is saying that he denied her request because “I do not believe in ending life, and life begins at conception.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that the Plan B pill can be dispensed without a prescription to woman over the age of 18.

In our commentary, we disagreed with the pharmacist, saying that we believed the pharmacist had a responsibility to not foist his own personal morality on the customer, and that Wal-Mart has a responsibility to make sure its pharmacies are staffed with people willing to hand out medications that have been declared to be legal.

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t get one email initially that agreed with our view. And the hits kept coming yesterday…

One MNB user wrote:

Let’s say I know a homeless man in Casper, WY whose passion in life is reading retail news and he desperately wants to read the Morning News Beat, each and every day, on the day the news breaks. Only, he has no Internet access and is not allowed into any building with public Internet access because he is disruptive. Using your argument, you have a moral obligation to get a hard-copy of your newspaper to him each and every day because you may seriously, negatively impact his life if you don’t. Life is about choices and this may not make me a lot of friends, but this woman most likely had a choice to not enter into sexual relations. She is not a victim here.

Is it just us, or does this analogy seem like a stretch to anyone else?

For the record, if she’d been unable to get the Plan B pill anywhere else, she could have ended up pregnant…which, as far as we know, is unlikely to happen if you don’t read MNB. So maybe the stakes are just a little bit different.

We think that she could have ended up a victim. Of the pharmacist’s arrogance.

And by the way, last time we checked, having premarital sexual relations isn’t a crime.

MNB user Chuck Lungstrom wrote:

Wow, did you ever open up a can of whatever with your comments about the Wal-Mart pharmacist that refused to dispense the so called Plan B abortion pill. It is quite obvious that this is an issue that you and many others are quite passionate about.

I am having a great deal of difficulty following how you get to some of the points that you made in the follow up comments that you made to this report and to MNB users. For example, you are practically demanding that the pharmacist ”live within the law” when in fact he was already living within the law when he refused to dispense. The comment ”the guy who decided his views were more important than the entirely legal views held by the customer.” implies that only the customer held a legal view, but in fact both the customer and the pharmacist hold legal views. You stated that a ”pharmacist has a responsibility to operate within the law, not foist his or her personal morality on a customer. to which I would restate that he was operating within the law although I fail to see how he was trying to foist his personal morality on anyone, he is simply living his life according to his own beliefs.

Unless I missed a great portion of this story, I fail to see where this pharmacist made ”a sweeping judgment about this woman, her values and her right to make a decision.” How does one go from a personal decision to a sweeping judgment etc.? I don’t see anything in this discussion that would indicate that this pharmacist had ”delusions of grandeur,” or that “his judgment trumps another person’s,” or that “he is morally superior,” or “arrogant.”

As far as this pharmacist “making a decision that could, in very real terms, have enormous impact on her life”, I would point out that the decision in question was already made; not by the pharmacist, but by the customer.

Did the pharmacist tell the customer that she was immoral, or that she was making bad choices, or that she could not take this pill, or that she could not seek it from another source, or that her view was not legal, or that she must start living according to his morally, or that she needed to reevaluate her values, or that she did not have a right to make this kind of decision? I don’t see where he took this position anywhere in this discussion except in your responses.

You are way off base on this one Kevin and by your responses you have demonstrated just how much of a liberal bias you have. This fact however will not deter me from continuing to read and enjoy your newsletter. So, fear not, you have fulfilled your mandate of creating controversy and passionate discussion.

All we’re arguing is that one person – in this case, the pharmacist – had no right to make this decision for this particular woman, especially when the decision she was making was entirely legal.

And once again, there is an implication in this email that this woman behaved in a manner that was irresponsible…and none of us know the circumstances that led her to the Wal-Mart pharmacy on that particular day. None of us.

And by the way, you can accuse us of “liberal bias” all you want. We think that is nonsense. There’s nothing inherently liberal about saying this woman had a right to go into a pharmacy and get access to a legal medication.

MNB user David Richard wrote:

Kevin, you opined:

"This is about one person thinking that his judgment trumps another person’s, that he is morally superior, and then making a decision that could, in very real terms, have enormous impact on her life.

That isn’t morality. That’s arrogance."

Deciding for convenience over the life of a child is unmitigated arrogance. Look at all the impact one all the lives involved in the decision.

"We would suggest that the pharmacist cast the first stone in making a sweeping judgment about this woman, her values and her right to make a decision."

I would suggest the first stone cast came from the one who decided to end a life. Her decisions do not automatically trump everyone else’s values and rights.

The pharmacist was faced with a decision about ending a life. His oath as a medical practitioner directly addresses that decision. His morals as a human directly address that decision.

Just to be clear, we’re not thrilled with the existence of the Plan B pill. There is something about it that strikes us as overly convenient and indulgent. But it exists. And it is legal. And safe.

Tell you something else. We hate to think in these terms, but if there ever were circumstances under which our wife, sisters or daughter needed the Plan B pill, and some pharmacist decided that his opinion was more important than their wishes, we would not be pleased.

We commented yesterday that we had no idea if the Ohio woman had other options to the Wal-Mart pharmacy, and one MNB user noted that he’d checked and found out that there were plenty of other pharmacies in the area:

I do enjoy your honest comments but taking a few seconds to do some basic research will do some good in the future.

That’s a fair criticism, but it misses our point. Our argument was that there are going to be places in this country where there won’t be other options, and it is important to make sure that precedents aren’t set that could cause people problems in those areas.

Another MNB user wrote:

This Pharmacist did not cast the first stone. He did not condemn the woman and her boyfriend. He stated his belief for not dispensing a product. You cast the stone when you made the strong statement that he should get another job. You mentioned that this is a law and that this Pharmacist was required to follow the law. I disagree completely. There is no better example of this than Dr. King, who we are celebrating this week. According to your standard if a law was passes, you must follow the law. If so, then the entire Civil Rights movement would have stopped before it started. This Pharmacist is following his beliefs and pursuing his own civil disobedience. I think you would agree on that.

It is interesting that the Plan B discussion has centered only on the Pharmacist’s morals and values. The slow, moral decay continues.

We’re actually a big believer in civil disobedience, but that’s not what this was. It was one person believing that his morality was better than another person’s.

Now, we have to admit that there were some emails that agreed with us…or at last didn’t castigate us as being a liberal heathen.

MNB user Rob Allison wrote:

I feel the issue with the Wal-Mart Plan B pharmacist is being blown out of proportion. The real question here is not what this pharmacist’ beliefs are, but what is Wal-Mart’s policy? This pharmacist is an employee of a Wal-Mart run pharmacy, so he should sell whatever Wal-Mart agrees to sell. If he does not agree with his companies’ policy, he should find a new job. Having beliefs and staying strong to your convictions is essential in life, but there comes a time and a place where if you must follow these convictions, you must be ready to face consequences. Wal-Mart is a huge corporation that has chose to sell the Plan B pill; therefore the Pharmacist must sell the pill. If he would like to quit Wal-Mart (or is let go as a result of his actions) he could open his own pharmacy and refuse to sell whatever product he chooses. If I refused to work with a client because I did not agree with some of their practices, my company may admire my strength in beliefs, but ultimately would tell me to do it or leave.

Less than a year ago, Ron Chomiuk, vice president of pharmacy for Wal-Mart, said that Wal-Mart would carry and dispense the Plan B pills because of pressure by state governments to carry the legal pills in their state-licensed pharmacies. "We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead," he said. "Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it.”


MNB user Renée J. Fontenot wrote:

The pharmacist was wrong to impose his beliefs onto the customer. Reading "Freakonomics" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner recently I was reminded of an argument that I engaged in Debate in the 70’s. If you believe that terminating an unwanted pregnancy is murder and you are outraged by that “murder”, then you must be equally outraged by other murders. In terminating a pregnancy, you trade one “murder” (if you accept that argument) now for future “murders”. Women that have been forced to keep babies because they were not allowed the choice to terminate a pregnancy tend to raise children that become criminals. Legalized abortions and the wide spread availability of birth control has helped curb the escalating crime rates that we experienced prior to the legalization. Simplified, unwanted babies become unwanted children who become unwanted adults. These individuals are at extremely high risk of becoming society’s criminal element.

If the pharmacist wants to “stand up for his morals” and deny the woman the opportunity to terminate a POSSIBLE pregnancy, then the pharmacist should step forward and pay for his beliefs. Is that pharmacist willing to pay for providing the necessary things to raise that child so that that child does not become a burden on society. Will the pharmacist cover the expenses associated with the birth, care, and nurturing of that child for the next 18+ years in such a way that the child can become a valuable member and contributing member of our society? Maybe the child does not commit murder, maybe the child becomes a robber, or a rapist. The crime is less important than the fact that the pharmacist prevented or failed to take action to prevent criminal acts. There maybe 12 to 16 years separation in the events but the correlation between the events is a straight line.

MNB user Bill Stubbs referred to the correspondent yesterday who wrote, It's amazing that we have abortion, gay rights, prejudices etc, etc, etc shoved in our faces everyday but people are not allowed to stand up for any morals that they have without the threat of being fired or sued.

Well, the nimrod who lumps gay rights in the same boat as abortion is seriously small minded and clueless. The Constitution is not about MORALS or MORALITY. It is what the government and the citizens of the country are pledged and bound to provide for one another. Gay rights are the same as everyone else's rights....fair, equal, protected, honest, open, and unashamed. For this individual to disparage my 10+ year marriage (whether the State of South Carolina recognizes it as legal or not) is highly offensive to me. (We are not) morally bankrupt monsters out to destroy America. We are simply two people who have pledged and committed to one another to support, love, honor, obey, etc. I am a homeowner, I am a taxpayer, I am a voter, I am an American. If the misinformed reader who wrote the reply above doesn't like it, I will be happy to take back the over $500,000 I have contributed in my lifetime to his/her protection for all federal and local services funded by my taxes….

Let's separate the LAW and the Constitution from our own ignorant and petty desires and needs to cling to something that makes us feel like we have control, when in fact, it is only by giving away control that we become whole and healthy. By the way, I personally HOPE that people choose life and not abortion. But I don’t believe the constitution gives me the right to decide for someone else. It is their (her) choice

This isn’t just a business issue. It is an emotional issue, and we recognize that we’re probably not going to change a lot of minds.

But it isn’t just an emotional issue. It also is a business issue, and as such we need to deal with it.

Another MNB user wrote:

Just so you know, there are a lot of us in agreement with you on the pharmacist/Plan B issue.

But, *certainly*, the pharmacist standing up for his beliefs obviously cares so much about the right of all these unwanted potential babies to live, he must *surely* have adopted dozens, if not hundreds, of them once they are born and neglected, abandoned or abused.

Oh, and supported all the women through the expense and discomfort of pregnancy and the agony of childbirth.


Man, I hate self-righteousness -- especially when people espouse it without
ever doing anything positive to actually help.

Another MNB user wrote:

I agree with you completely. Wal-Mart works for its customers, and it is going to lose business and worsen its image if is does not rectify this issue and then shine it up for the media. Since when is the consumer wrong! However I can tell you right now that story alone has made me switch to the Target and CVS pharmacies near my house to get my prescription (which is only birth control and Plan B) but I might as well get my shopping done while I'm at Target, thus Wal-Mart just lost all my business. Maybe if the pharmacist doesn't like dispensing the pill he should go find himself a nice cozy job working somewhere else where he won’t be put in these positions.

And there’s the business side of the story.

Let’s move on…

We had a piece yesterday about Nash Finch CEO Alec Covington, who is moving the company back in the direction of primarily being a wholesaler instead of being a retailer competing with its own customers.

MNB user Dale Riley wrote:

The energy, clarification of strategic direction and the 'customer focus' Alec Covington brings to Nash Finch is a breath of fresh air. Alec has accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. As an independent retailer, and one who knows of Alec's background and previous accomplishments, I am encouraged and excited about the future of the independent retailers 'partnering' with Nash Finch.

MNB user Brad Morgan wrote:

As is his custom - Alec Covington is doing the right thing. Having worked for him in a past life I have no doubt that he will have Nash-Finch humming like a Singer sewing machine in very short order! Wholesale may not be as sexy as retail but by taking this approach, Covington and his team will indeed be filling void that has been created due to the lack of focus of his competitors. A very wise move in my humble opinion.
KC's View: