No-Birth Control Pharmacy Closes
Divine Mercy Pharmacy, located in Northern Virginia, recently closed. Its closure was the subject of a rather snarky op-ed in the Washington Post. Nonetheless, the op -ed raises some good questions about moral commitment in our contemporary world.
In particular, it makes me realize that in a capitalist society, one’s moral viewpoint is one thing, but the intensity of that viewpoint is something else, and for some purposes more important. It’s one thing to oppose birth control. It’s something else again to be willing to go out of one’s way to a no-birth control pharmacy. (Though it doesn’t sound too inconvenient here.) It’s possible, after all, just to glide on past the birth control aisle at CVS.and on to the cough medicine.
A second issue is the way in which societal standards about non-moral issues affect our moral decision-making. Call it the “normalcy” factor. Most things you buy from a pharmacy have nothing to do with birth control. So you would expect that people who want other things might just stop at a pharmacy like Divine Mercy from time to time, even if they do use birth control. By analogy, non-vegetarians do sometimes eat at vegetarian restaurants–they’re not opposed to it.
This suggests to me that the pharmacy might not have looked like a normal pharmacy–and thereby raised questions in the eyes of potential customers, whether they were opposed to birth control or not.
We have expectations for what a pharmacy will look like that have nothing whatsoever to do with birth control. When I walk into a CVS, it looks like what I expect a pharmacy to look like–and has all the stuff I expect a pharmacy to have –from cosmetics to usb drives. Because my expectations are met, I trust that the quality will be good.
I don’t know, but I wonder if people felt uneasy because DMP didn’t look like a “normal” pharmacy in other respects. My guess is that DMP focused on being a pharmacy, narrowly construed. That’s the best way to explain why there were no cosmetics–which, the last time I checked, weren’t against Catholic teaching. You probably couldn’t get soup, soda, or wine there either.
The trouble is that there are no pharmacies narrowly construed anymore, and this has changed our expectations of what a pharmacy is. And while some people might be willing to go out of their way to a no-birth control pharmacy, it’s asking a lot more of them to go to something that doesn’t look like a modern pharmacy at all.
Prophetic witness –on a number of issues — may be a good thing. But it’s hard to fit prophetic witness into a viable business plan.