Pharmacies are generally regarded as vital to any community, dispensing necessary medications to help cure or treat a wide array of chronic and temporary conditions. Usually, as the medication is dispensed, a clerk asks the consumer if he or she needs to speak with the pharmacist in the event that more information is needed about the medication.

But imagine if the pharmacist morally objected to the purpose behind your medication; if you were, for example, seeking a legally available and prescribed medicine designed to end a nonviable pregnancy. Imagine if the same pharmacist then decided it was within his or her moral purview to deny you that medication. Now imagine if his or her actions were legally protected.

In six states, you would not have to imagine this scenario because pharmacists there are legally allowed to do just that.

Questions centering around the dispensing of medications usually focus on prescriptions related to emergency contraceptives, often called “morning after pills.” In some cases, pharmacists have refused to dispense such prescriptions based on their religious beliefs. The issue, not surprisingly, has ended up in the courts on more than one occasion, and has in some cases led to state laws.

The issue proved so contentious that it found its way to the Supreme Court. In June 2016, the court let stand a decision by a lower court that upheld the right of individual pharmacists to refuse to dispense specific medications because of their beliefs, but with the understanding that another pharmacist at the same pharmacy must fill the prescription. Lawyers representing owners of small pharmacies, where there is often only a single pharmacist employed, cried foul, arguing that there was no such option for their clients.

That question arose again earlier this month, when a woman from Arizona filed a formal complaint with the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy. Arizona, incidentally, is one of the six states that allow for a religious exemption. In this case, the customer claimed she had been verbally humiliated by a pharmacist at her local Walgreens when she attempted to fill a prescription for a pregnancy-terminating drug after learning from her doctor that her pregnancy was no longer viable. She claims that the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription and that the denial was loud enough that other customers could hear what was going on.

Walgreens has pledged to investigate the matter and has reiterated that company policy requires that if a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription on moral grounds, he or she must ask another pharmacist on duty to do so. The company also noted that in this case, the pharmacist connected with the incident was the only one working at that location at that time, and that he called and referred the customer to another Walgreens to fulfill her needs.

Obviously, this issue walks the line between freedom of religious expression and the common good. The Supreme Court’s 2016 decision struck a delicate balancing act between the two rights. And morning-after pills are not the only issue here. Consider: some individuals have deep-seated beliefs in connection with same-sex relationships, sexual relationships outside of marriage, and contraception in general. Does that mean they should be exempted from dispensing medication in connection with any or all of these scenarios?

One might also make the argument that if a pharmacist holds such strong moral beliefs he or she should give serious consideration to taking up a line of work that would not require such a compromise of faith; that while pharmacists should not be forced to act against their religious convictions, so too should the willingness to dispense all legal medications be a requirement for someone seeking to be a pharmacist. Anything else just seems like a prescription for disaster.