Tuesday, February 14, 2006

More of That "Freedom of Choice" We Hear So Much About

Wal-Mart has chosen not to carry the "morning after pill" in its pharmacies, except in Illinois where it is required to do so by law. Now three women, reportedly backed by abortion rights groups (big surprise), have sued Wal-Mart for not carrying the morning after pill in its Massachusetts stores. They sued on the grounds that state law requires pharmacies to stock all "commonly prescribed medicines", which I believe is the same reason Wal-mart is required to carry it in Illinois--though it remains unclear to me how commonly morning after pills are prescribed and whether megadoses of hormones given to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg really constitutes "medicine". Nevertheless, the Massachusetts pharmacy board has ruled that Wal-Mart must carry the drug. If forcing a business to sell a product it does not want to sell constitutes a blow for freedom, then we may count this as a victory for freedom of choice and assume the Massachusetts pharmacy board is pro-freedom--you might even say pro-choice.

One of the plaintiffs applauded the ruling, because now her patients won't have to "shop around." Yes, heaven forbid that.

NARAL Pro-choice America (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League), either anticipating this victory or celebrating after it, announced that it would be bombarding Wal-Mart with letters urging it to carry the drug. Well, good for them; all Americans have the right to try to influence a business' decisions by telling it what we, as consumers, want to buy. But it goes further than that. NARAL Pro-choice America's argument, in their petition, is that Wal-Mart has no right not to carry the drug. Wal-Mart's choice not to stock it interferes with a woman's decision to take the drug--or the doctor's decision to prescribe it or--well, it interferes with someone's decision about something. And that interference doesn't promote freedom. Fortunately, if Wal-Mart doesn't change its mind and choose to carry the drug in all states, the lawyer for the Massachusetts women says he is ready to sue in other states. Viva freedom!

I must say I find this all very instructive. I never before knew that if I couldn't find a product I wanted at one store, I could sue to make them carry it. Silly me thought I had to go down the road to a store that did carry that product. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to buy a loop turner for sewing and the Wal-Mart fabric department doesn't carry them, so I foolishly went to Hobby Lobby and bought one. Now I know I can just sue the store to make it carry everything I want so I don't have to shop around.

For instance, I have checked several Wal-Mart stores and two Sam's Clubs in south Mississippi and Louisiana multiple times over the past few years and, as best I can tell, Wal-Mart does not carry Catholic bibles in its stores--no, not even in south Louisiana, which has a high proportion of Catholics. Clearly they are trying to limit my freedom of choice to buy those products. Because Wal-Mart did not carry them, I was forced to shop around for my purchases, and if I want to buy more copies I will be forced to shop around again, rather than enjoying the convenience of buying my Bible at the same time I buy my eggs and toothpaste at the local Supercenter. Or I would have been forced to do so. Now I know I can simply sue them and force them to carry all the products I want.

And now I think about it, why should anyone have to shop around for anything? Everything should be available at Wal-Mart. If my neighbor wants to buy the latest copy of Hustler or Spanking Feminists, why should he have to shop around to find an adult bookstore? Shouldn't he have the right to pick it up as he goes through the Wal-Mart checkout line with his milk and doughnuts next Sunday morning?

I assume NOW will also want to see freedom of choice extended and will be carrying ads for these products in their newsletter. (Yes, they advertise products; I used to get the newsletter.) And feminist bookstores will start carrying Phyllis Schlafly's oevre, lest their customers be forced to shop around for her books. It's all about freedom.

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