Thursday, July 28, 2005

Strictly Irresponsible Journalism from NPR
I was listening to NPR's "Morning Edition" while I showered this morning, and I was absolutely disgusted by what I heard. In their "Time now for your comments" section, they opened with the following letter:

"It is interesting," writes Adam Taylor of Portland, Oregon, "that someone can complain about being expected to do the job they are paid to do."

He's referring to our story about a Capitol Hill debate on whether pharmicists can refuse to give out birth control pills or other medication they object to on moral grounds.

Adam Taylor writes, "As a vegetarian and a sandwich-maker, if I told my customers that I was morally obliged to not sell them the beef that's written on the menu, I would quickly be out of a job. If someone feels so morally violated by the terms of their job, they should probably find a different line of work."
I should note that there was emphasis in the speaking, but I transcribed only the words I heard, not the tone—to give NPR the benefit of the doubt.

It is incredibly irresponsible and biased to publish a letter like this. Mr. Taylor is absolutely right, and absolutely wrong. Yes, if someone doesn't do the job they are paid to do, they are likely to be fired. If a pharmacist is instructed by the owner of the pharmacy to fill certain prescriptions and he refuses on moral grounds, then he can be fired.

But that is not what the debate is about—the debate is about whether or not laws should be written to compell all pharmacists to fill such prescriptions. In other words, if I own a pharmacy and do not want to fill birth control prescriptions, I will be open to civil and possibly criminal legal action.

In this context, Mr. Taylor's position (irresponsibly lent a microphone by "Morning Edition") is entirely misleading. If he owned a sandwich shop, should the government be able to compell him to serve meat? That's the question at hand. I think everyone would say that no, vegetarian restaurants have a right to exist, if that's what their owners want. Even if it's the only restaurant in town—even if it's the only restaurant for 100 miles—it's up to the owner of that restaurant to determine the products he wishes to offer. If the clientelle is there, they will thrive; if not, they will collapse. That's capitalism.

And I think most people would say that, even if there was only one restaurant in town, the government would be out of line to compell that restaurant to serve meat. (Note: according to Kelo, however, the government could seize the restaurant and give it to someone who would serve meat.) So why are pharmacists different? Why should we be compelling them to distribute products that they don't wish to?

And why is NPR helping that goal by completely mischaracterizing the debate?

UPDATE [8/2/2005 - 18:30]: Welcome Carnival visitors! I hope you'll take the time to tour RFTR beyond just this post—I have to admit that I've been very busy for the past week, so my posting ratio has fallen significantly. Either way, I hope to see you again in the future.

Recommended posts:
What do A-Rod and Japanese Scientists have in common?
Are video games beneficial?
And, in case you missed it: John Howard's must-read comments.

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