States move to le­gal­ize phar­ma­cists’ right to refuse on pill

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joyce Howard Price

Law­mak­ers in nearly half the states have in­tro­duced bills in this year’s leg­isla­tive ses­sions to al­low phar­ma­cists not to fill pre­scrip­tions for emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion or other birth-con­trol medicines based on their re­li­gious or moral ob­jec­tions.

Four states — Arkansas, Ge­or­gia, Mis­sis­sippi and South Dakota — have passed laws that per­mit drug­gists to deny cer­tain pre­scrip­tions, in­clud­ing emer­gency or other con­tra­cep­tives.

“This is def­i­nitely a hot-but­ton is­sue for a lot of peo­ple [. . .] it’s pretty con­tro­ver­sial, re­gard­less of which side you are on,” Made­line Kri­escher, a re­search an­a­lyst for the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures (NCSL), said on Aug. 22.

For years, states have been en­act­ing laws de­signed to limit abor­tion, in­clud­ing leg­is­la­tion to let doc­tors and other heath care providers refuse to per­form or par­tic­i­pate in an abor­tion.

“Now, the is­sue is ex­pand­ing as phar­ma­cists are re­fus­ing to fill emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion and con­tra­cep­tion pre­scrip­tions,” the NCSL says on its Web site, www.ncsl.org.

Mrs. Kri­escher said the bills all stalled in com­mit­tee, but pro­life ad­vo­cates ex­pect many of the mea­sures to re­turn. Mer­chants in the new univer­sity town of Ave Maria, be­ing de­vel­oped in south­west­ern Florida by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Mon­aghan, will be asked not to sell con­tra­cep­tives. But le­gal is­sues pre­vent them from be­ing pro­hib­ited from do­ing so.

Jim Sed­lak, vice pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Life League, said that or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­ports the ef­forts of a 1,500-mem­ber group called Phar­ma­cists for Life In­ter­na­tional in their ef­forts to al­low phar­ma­cists to forgo fill­ing pre­scrip­tions for birth-con­trol med­i­ca­tions.

Whether the drug is the morn­ing-af­ter pill or the tra­di­tional birth-con­trol bill, Mr. Sed­lak said, “One of the mech­a­nisms is to pre­vent im­plan­ta­tion, which means the end­ing of hu­man life.

“Phar­ma­cists are be­ing caught in the mid­dle, so many of them are start­ing to say no,” he said.

The Planned Par­ent­hood Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­ica and other pro-choice groups see such mea­sures as a big threat, say­ing they in­ter­fere with a doc­tor’s de­ci­sion about the proper med­i­ca­tion for a pa­tient. The group has started a cam­paign called “Fill My Pills Now” de­signed to over­turn poli­cies that al­low drug­gists to refuse to fill birth-con­trol pre­scrip­tions if they have moral ob­jec­tions.

“Th­ese phar­ma­cists — em­bold­ened by re­li­gious ex­trem­ists and em­pow­ered by arch-con­ser­va­tives in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and around the na­tion — are no longer con­tent to live their own lives as they choose,” Planned Par­ent­hood Pres­i­dent Ce­cile Richards wrote in a re­cent let­ter ex­plain­ing the cam­paign.

“Now they are try­ing to tell you and me how to live our lives. And too of­ten they suc­ceed. That has got to stop,” she added.

In the mail­ing, Planned Par­ent­hood also said three ma­jor chains — Tar­get, Wal­greens and Winn-Dixie — cur­rently let phar­ma­cists refuse to fill con­tra­cep­tive pre­scrip­tions.

But Tar­get said on Aug. 22 that “Plan B, the emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive, is the only pre­scrip­tion for which this pol­icy ap­plies.”

And if a phar­ma­cist re­fuses to fill such a pre­scrip­tion, he must find an­other Tar­get phar­ma­cist to do so or re­fer the cus­tomer to a dif­fer­ent drug­store, the com­pany said.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Wal­greens and Winn-Dixie could not be reached for com­ment.

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