The Pope is encouraging pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill (MAP), if they have a conscientious objection. The European Union is considering obligating pharmacists to dispense the MAP as a condition of practice.
This brings up some interesting issues regarding womens' right to contraception. Much of the debate has been colored by gender and racial considerations that emerge from a larger social context (old white man controlling the fertility of a young woman of color for example), but I would prefer to stick to individual ethics
In the US, the government has no constitutional authority to impel behavior from individuals, especially if it is morally repugnant to the individual, unless there is a compelling societal interest. I am not sure Europe's constitutional protection of the individual is as strong as the American tradition.
On one side of the argument is the moral question of abortion which appears to coincide with the protection of individual liberties.
On the other side of the argument is a woman's liberty in relation to reproductive choice and the practical issues of access to heath care.
I used to work with physicians who actively advised against abortion, the use of abortifascients and did not prescribe contraceptives. I respected their right to do so and they respected my wish to do the contrary. If a patient came into the office with the expectation of having her demand satisfied, she was in for a sad surprise with some doctors.
Is it reasonable to demand that a health care provider simply agree to whatever a customer/client/patient wishes? I think not, especially if there is a moral overlay. We should all try to do what we believe is best, given our ability to discern the correct course of action. As a medical director, I might hesitate to hire a physician if they refused to provide a service that was required or needed by the community, from either a business or a public health perspective. But on the other hand, if they cannot abide by the perspectives of my organization, they can certainly set up their own shop where they please and not have to deal with me and my beliefs.
They should not be expected to dispense something for which they harbor doubt, medical, ethical or otherwise. So maybe the expectation of getting your morning-after pill on demand, wherever and whenever you choose is unreasonable. Access is one thing, but not at the price of the individual liberties of my colleagues.