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       Wednesday, February 15, 2006

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Mass. says Wal-Mart must stock morning-after pill

Over the passed couple of weeks I've talked about a variety of topics, many of which garnered serious debate among the readers. One of those stories concerns Wal-Mart and the Morning-After Pill. There have been developments in that story, which call for a response:

A Massachusetts regulatory board voted on Tuesday to require Wal-Mart stores to stock morning-after contraceptives, two weeks after three women in the state sued Wal-Mart for refusing to fill orders for the pills.

If Wal-Mart complies, Massachusetts will become the second state after Illinois to require the world's biggest retailer to carry the Plan B contraceptive, which must be taken within 72 hours after sex to prevent pregnancy.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy said it had sent Wal-Mart lawyers a letter informing them of its unanimous decision.

Wal-Mart has until Thursday to provide written compliance to the board's ruling and Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman has said the retailer would abide by any directive from the state pharmacy board.

First, let me clear up some lingering questions about where I was coming from in this article. I respect Wal-Mart's right to carry whatever products they see fit to sell or not carry products they believe have low demand. This is why I don't write article griping about them carrying textile products made from cheap, foreign labor. That's the marketplace and I can dig it.

What I was complaining about was Wal-Mart claiming to be store that is all about promoting the best value for their customers while opting to take a moral stance against the Morning-After Pill. Their stated defense was lack of consumer interest but I don't believe for second that that is true. The company has too long of a history of being allied with the religious right for me to think that its motives were purely economical in this case.

As for the argument about how I shouldn't complain at all and I just shouldn't shop there...thanks for the libertarian advice but I think I'll just stick up for what I believe is right, if it's all the same to you. Contrary to what is apparently popular opinion, neither my fiancé nor myself had a personal stake in this case. We live in Brandon, FL, which is a suburb outside of Tampa. There is a Walgreen’s next to one of the dozen local Wal-Marts in the area. Trust me, we have options about where to buy contraceptives.

This isn't just about free market principle. This is about purposeful manipulation by a major consumer corporation to manipulate its customer, especially in rural areas, to take up and practice a particular religious value, when they may in fact not want to adhere to said value. I don't care if I can Plan B is as many as 3 other stores within a block radius, that doesn't make what Wal-Mart is doing and has done right in the slightest.

As for the argument about the rest of the world being able to shop in other places besides Wal-Mart so nobody should protest Wal-Mart's policies, I say come out of your hole, get in your car, pack a sack lunch and go the see country. There are parts of these United States that are perpetually stuck in a time warp. Not every town has the advantages of a major city and the shopping freedom that goes with it. Hell, in Alabama, there are some places that still only have dirt roads, let alone a variety of consumer choices.

There's also the issue of Wal-Mart eliminating much of the competition throughout the country. As I wrote in my previous article, the modus operandi of Wally World is to set up shop in rural areas where they will unchallenged and can monopolize the local market. In the end, locals in these forgotten towns have little to no choice but to shop in Wal-Mart, and admittedly will do so without consideration of the political ramifications.

Now what some of you have said is, "Aw poor baby! I guess you'll just have to go a bit further to buy groceries then." I can only assume that the people making this argument don't have children or have lots of expendable income. In the real world where housing and food costs tend to eat up more than 50% of your income, value shopping is of critical importance. Convenience too is important in that you don't want to spend hours on the road shopping for household needs when you have a family to attend to. There are more issues than just the free market.

I don't know why this particular story seemed to threaten so many of you who wrote me back or commented on the site. Turning the argument around, if we are to let the free market rule, wouldn't it behoove Wal-Mart to carry all manner of product available in order to maximize their sales? Sure they don't have to but as someone who has worked in many a retail story, there's nothing worse than not being able to make an easy sale just because you don't have the particular product in need.

But again, this is not about the free market. This is about doing what is right. It is not right to force your values on people, especially when you know you have a captive audience. Apparently, the Mass court thinks so as well.

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posted by Markkind at 7:27 AM  


Michael said...

Methinks your haughtiness a bit too highly tweaked. You seem to have no problem agreeing that someone else's values not be forced upon one's own system, but that is also true for Wal-Mart. They should NEVER be forced to carry any product that they do not wish to carry. Why are you afraid of the free market? If people want abortion pills, they can get them in any drug store in the state. This whole argument you present is phony.

1:13 PM  
sdenning said...

You say that it isn't right to force your beliefs onto anyone else. I must ask then do you believe Christian ER doctors should be required by law to perform on-demand abortions? From my point of view the answer to this does not depend on whether there is only one ER in town, or whether or not there is only one doctor on duty. As individuals we are responsible to our consciences, our society, and to God for our actions and for the products we chose to sell to others. No one should be forced by the government or anyone else to violate any of these.

2:09 PM  
JB said...

I totally agree with Michael. Come on - forcing a company to be free of religion is just as heinous as forcing religion on people. Let people make their own choices, sure.. but let companies make theirs, too.

2:23 PM  

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