Thursday, February 02, 2006

What Remedy Will the Court Prescribe?

A Washington Post headline today read, "Women Sue Wal-Mart Over Morning-After Pill."

At first, one might think that women who had taken the drug had experienced complications, that the drug was ineffective, or that it conflicted with another drug they were taking at the same time. But Wal-Mart doesn't even carry the 'morning-after' pill. That's exactly why the women are suing.

According to the Post, "Backed by abortion rights groups, three Massachusetts women sued Wal-Mart on Wednesday, accusing the retail giant of violating a state regulation by failing to stock emergency contraception pills in its pharmacies. The lawsuit, filed in state court, seeks to force the company to carry the morning-after pill in its 44 Wal-Marts and four Sam Club stores in Massachusetts." The article notes that state policy requires pharmacies to stock all "commonly prescribed medicines," and that one of Wal-Mart's competitors, CVS Pharmacy, stocks the morning-after pill in all of its stores.

To be honest, I'd never thought of it before, but now I'm considering a few similar lawsuits. I went to Nordstrom before forecasts of sleet and snow came out. Knowing that my worn tires would be slippery in snow or ice, I set out to buy some emergency tires. Believe it or not, Nordstrom actually refuses to carry tires. At other department stores located at ends of malls - Sears, for example - tires are commonly held items. Perhaps the courts can also consider forcing Nordstrom to start carrying tires.

Even more recently, I stopped by a hair salon. As I perused the products in the displays, I noticed that the salon did not carry my brand of shampoo and conditioner. How unfortunate! Normally, I'd think to go to another store to find it, not to the nearest courthouse.

The promise of profit, of enjoying one's choice of career, of providing specialized and valuable services all inspire people to take on the risk of starting a business. These entrepreneurs enable people like you and me to have what we want when we want it. They're not miracle workers or public servants. They have every right to choose which services to provide, which products to sell, when to open, when to close, and the placement and number of locations to have.

I sell my services to my employer. If for some reason, I refuse to provide a service that my company demands, the company has every right to stop purchasing my services (i.e. they can fire me). However, we would not expect to grant my company the right to obtain a court order to force me to provide a service that I refuse to provide. Like the Wal-Mart shopper who can't find the products she's looking for, my company would simply take its pocketbook elsewhere.

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