Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.
Democrats in Congress have proposed a plan to fine pharmacies up to $500,000 if the pharmacists follow their conscience and decline to dispense abortifacient chemicals.
“Pharmacists are professionals, not vending machines,” said Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America. “The FDA has been known to make mistakes in approving drugs, and doctors have made mistakes in prescribing. Pharmacists provide a line of defense to ensure that patients’ lives and health are protected and can make patients aware of ethical concerns.
“Yet this bill would punish pharmacists up to $500,000 for acting on their ethical duty,” she said.
The new plan, called the “Access to Birth Control Act,” is being pushed forward by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
The CWFA said the bill would simply repeal a pharmacist’s fundamental right to make ethical decisions. It already has been referred to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce for action.
“This bill would force pharmacists to distribute the controversial morning-after pill, … trampling on any professional or ethical concerns,” the organization said.
The congressional description of the bill is fairly innocuous: “To establish certain duties for pharmacies to ensure provision of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception, and for other purposes.”
But a reading of the proposal reveals it would require a pharmacy to provide the abortion-causing drugs to a customer whether or not they are even in stock.
If the pharmacy stocks the chemicals, they would be provided “without delay.” If they are not on hand, the pharmacy must find another pharmacy “of the customer’s choice” for a referral, or get the chemicals and “notify the customer when the contraceptive arrives.”
“The pharmacy shall ensure that its employees to do not … interfere with or obstruct the delivery of services relating to a request for contraception,” the proposal says.
“Access to birth control is a women’s health issue, a private matter and a constitutional right. No one – not pharmacists, politicians, or religious leaders – should be able to tamper with that right,” Maloney said.
Among the groups supporting the requirement are NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
The law also allows “any person aggrieved” to file a civil lawsuit for “appropriate relief, including actual and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and a reasonable attorney’s fee and cost.”
But Christian pharmacists already have taken stands that have cost them their jobs against providing what amounts to an abortion-causing drug .
Four Walgreens pharmacists were put on unpaid leave in an earlier case in Illinois.
Ann Polka, the manager for the Belleville, Ill., Catholic Diocese’s Project Rachel, a post-abortion healing program, said the action was “unjust.”
“They are being let go because they couldn’t in good conscience dispense the drugs,” she said.
At issue is the Plan B morning-after “contraceptive.” It essentially is a very high dosage of birth-control chemicals taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to prevent ovulation or implantation. If ovulation is prevented, no egg is fertilized and no pregnancy occurs. But if ovulation has taken place and the egg is fertilized, the morning-after pill works to block implantation by the early embryo in the mother’s womb. The embryo is aborted, making dispensing prescriptions for the pill a matter of conscience for pro-life pharmacists.
John Menges, one of the four Illinois pharmacists, said the FDA erred in classifying Plan B as an oral contraceptive since it performs the work of an abortifacient.
“This punitive bill would bankrupt pharmacists for doing what they believe protects people from harm,” said Wright. “We need pharmacists with strong convictions about protecting life and health, but this bill would drive people with such convictions out of the pharmaceutical profession – which would be detrimental to all patients.”
She noted that “ardent abortion activists” are promoting the plan, even though it would “criminalize ‘freedom of choice’ by forcing people to act against their beliefs.”
Pharmacists For Life International, a group that opposes abortion, cites a study showing seven of 10 pharmacists believe they have a right to conscience in refusing to fill prescriptions for drugs that violate their moral, ethical or religious beliefs.
“PFLI’s mission is to make pharmacy once again a life-saving profession, a mooring from which it has drifted,” the organization says. “As part of this commitment, PFLI is actively involved in educating pharmacists, nurses, physicians and other health professionals; educating the general public; serving pregnancy care centers; providing an economical speakers bureau; providing pharmaceutical cognitive services and consulting services; offering a toll-free contact phone number; providing on-line Internet and e-mail services; and providing many other benefits for members and non-members, pharmacists, lay persons, and students.”
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