Wednesday, January 26, 2005


I find myself at odds with myself over proposed legislation that would "allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control pills and emergency contraception without fear of being fired."

Very dicey stuff. On the one hand, women should absolutely have access to these medications. On the other hand, pharmacists absolutely should not be forced to violate their consciences. I don't know how to reconcile these two rights.

One suggestions, which is not part of the proposed legislation and is therefore a concern to the pro-choice camp, is to require conscientious objectors to refer to another pharmacist.

The proposal has alarmed Kathy Boyle, executive director of the Arizona Pharmacy Alliance. She said she's less concerned with provisions that allow employees to refuse to dispense these pills than with the refusal of sponsors to include a provision that requires the pharmacist to at least refer customers somewhere they can get their prescriptions filled.

One pro-life pharmacist agreed this is how she would handle it, while another felt he could not do so as that would still be assisting in abortion, which he cannot do in good conscience.

Again, I see both sides of this disagreement and don't know how to resolve them. But we do need to find a way to not force people to violate their beliefs without denying access to medication for women who need it.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger catholic_girl said...

I think the only way to ensure that a) pharmacists don't have to do what they consider to be murder and b) women's lives aren't affected by these pharmacists' religious objections is to make pharmacies choose which view they want to accommodate and advertise themselves as such.

My friend went to her OB/GYN for her annual checkup recently. They asked her if she'd had any difficulty getting her birth-control prescription filled. She hadn't, and was surprised at the question, since we live in a major metropolitan area. The doctor explained that many of her patients have run into this problem (pharmacists refusing to dispense birth-control pills, and I don't just mean the morning-after pill) and the doctor was keeping a list of pharmacies to tell her patients to avoid.

Funny, no one's been refused Viagra.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

I like that solution, at least in cities and larger towns where there is a choice of pharmacies. Suddenly the ubiquitousness of Walgreens doesn't seem like such a bad thing... ;)

In rural ares where there might only be one pharmacist, that might not work.

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad Catholic's comment brushes on what I've been thinking: I'm uncomfortable with the moral clause to begin with, but more disturbed that the proposal in your state *only* singles out bcp and emergency contraception. There are plenty of folks (not necessarily me) who disagree morally with fertility drugs and erection drugs. The first one would still fall directly in with the reproductive issues because frequently there are more embryos are being created than will be allowed to develop -- I can see how some would view that with the same anti-abortion lens.

Still, I agree that pharmacies should be upfront about advertising such policies in order to provide consumer choice. (Although, again, that would be hard in a rural area.)

The analogy that comes to mind are vegetarian restaurant workers -- they can choose to work in a vegetarian restaurant for consistency with their beliefs, or they can choose to serve meat as they're asked. If a grill had to announce "Sorry, no meat tonight -- the vegetarian chef is on" -- well, I guess that doesn't hold up because you can go home and cook your own. Can't go home and make your own contraceptives.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger Knitress said...

As a once and future resident of a rural area, I think it's pretty straightforward.

No one should be forced to do things that they believe to be morally wrong. But on the other hand, if the pharmacy's policy is to dispense birth control pills, then by taking a job at this pharmacy -- or continuing to work there rather than looking for another job -- you agree to abide by your employer's policies.

My own understanding is that the dissenting pharmacists basically want to be able to keep their employers from having a policy that says "birth control is always available here".

I can understand why they don't want to dispense -- I do see the theological point even though I don't agree with it. But the answer is not to get a law passed, it's to find a job with a pharmacy that either has a different policy, or a job where there are two pharmacists on your shift, or a job in a setting like a hospital where you won't be dispensing these meds.

At 5:45 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

That's a good point. As a fiscal conservative, I tend to think business owners should have a lot of latitude in their policies, so yeah, I guess an employer should have the right to say "We sell these here. Either you provide them to customers or work elsewhere." Then again, does that give a lot of latitude to an owner who doesn't want to sell birth control or emegerncy contraceptives to not do so? And were do these rights conflict with the rights of patients to have easy access to medications, particularly in cases where time is of the essence?

Hmmmmm. This topic really has me thinking.

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a pharmacist, and I have the professional right to deny filling any prescription that I do not wish to fill for any legitimate medical reason. We are not just vending machines, you know. If I truly believe that abortion is murder, than a morning after pill is like a lethal overdose. These euphemisms such as "choice" or "morals" have blinded some to the possible reality of morning after pills being the same as murder.

Comparing a vegetarian working in a restaurant to a pharmacist participating in murder is an example of this "blindness" and closed mindedness.


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