Thursday, March 09, 2006

Morning After Pill: Conscientious Objections

The Star Tribune has an article today about a bill in the Minnesota Legislature that would allow conscientious objection to filling morning after pill prescriptions. I have written about this previously, and originally here.

Bill would allow refusal of morning-after pill

Legislation backed by the Minnesota Pharmacists Association seeks to balance patients' rights and pharmacists' consciences.

Conrad deFiebre, 651-222-1673

Pharmacists would be allowed to refuse to dispense drugs such as morning-after contraception pills on moral or religious grounds, but only if patients are assured of "timely access" to the drugs from other sources under a bill approved by the House Health Committee on Wednesday.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate spoke out against some provisions of the bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, and backed by the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, but it was sent to the House floor on a lopsided voice vote.

"This is a compromise, balancing the liberty of pharmacists to exercise their conscience with the right and necessity of patients to get legally prescribed medication," Emmer said.

Although the head of the Pharmacists Association noted that the instances of patients having been refused prescriptions amount to "a statistically negligible problem," the bill sparked sharp debate.

Erin Matson of the National Organization for Women said it will spur more pharmacists to deny birth control and emergency contraception to women, sending them on "wild goose chases" to get the drugs.

The bill's requirement that pharmacists' employers ensure alternative access to such drugs poses moral dilemmas for pharmacies at Roman Catholic-run hospitals, said Rep. Tim Wilkin, R-Eagan, who said it could even force some to close.

The bill, HF 3032, would make refusal to fill a prescription grounds for discipline by the state Board of Pharmacy. But it also would allow exceptions for pharmacists' professional judgment that a drug would be harmful, for drugs not in stock and in cases where payment is refused. Under the bill, pharmacists could refuse prescriptions on moral grounds only after notifying their employers in writing of their objections.

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