Last week, another pharmacist came under fire for refusing to fill a highly controversial prescription, while three others already lost their jobs for doing the same. This is one way advancing medical technology is creating new controversy over a long-standing debate. Specifically, abortion pills are now available through prescription.

The prescription drug is called the “morning-after pill,” which is a newly available abortifacient often confused with RU-486. For clarification: The “morning-after pill” is also called the “emergency contraceptive.” The reason for the pseudonym (an obvious misnomer) is presumably to address the “oops” factor.

You know – “Oops, I didn’t take or use any contraceptive,” or “Oops, I didn’t expect to have sex,” or “Oops, the relationship didn’t last.”

All of these afterthoughts are, of course, on the increase as a result of the rise in casual sex. The answer, we’re told by the secularists, is not abstinence, self-control, forethought or maternal responsibility – rather it is the emergency contraceptive that is taken after sex in the hope of preventing pregnancy.

The MAPs are essentially very high, multiple dosages of birth-control pills taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. They work by preventing ovulation or implantation. When they successfully prevent ovulation, pregnancy will not occur. In other words, there is no egg to fertilize. If the woman becomes pregnant, the pill blocks the embryo from implanting into the mothers womb, causing an abortion of the early embryo.

By contrast, RU-486 is a pill specifically designed to abort an older more developed baby – not prevent ovulation or implantation. This is the same pill regime approved by the FDA just four years ago that’s resulted in countless deaths of women through blood loss, bacterial infection and heart attacks.

This drug can be taken during the first nine weeks of pregnancy. In this regimen, a woman is given the RU-486 pills, which are followed two days later with a dose of a prostaglandin. This combination induces powerful uterine contractions to expel the baby from the womb.

The presently debated difference between MAPs and RU-486 is that administration of RU-486 is performed under medical supervision at authorized medical centers. The morning-after pill is provided to women through a prescription. This allows the woman to take the drug and carry out an unmonitored and unsupervised abortion at home.

The question is: “Should a pharmacist be forced to participate in the abortion of a child by filling a prescription for these drugs?”

The obvious problem for pro-life pharmacists is that they recognize life begins at conception. That means they cannot, in good conscience, dispense drugs that work after an egg is fertilized because that in effect ends a life. Naturally, pro-life groups defend these pharmacists, claiming they should be allowed to exercise their conscience and opt out of dispensing these drugs.

The counterargument by abortion advocates is that any pharmacist unwilling to care for a woman’s total health should not be a pharmacist at all. But no one forces a physician to participate in abortions. Shouldn’t the same logic and standards apply to pharmacists as doctors who oppose abortion based on moral or religious convictions?

Of course, the quick fix is quite simple. Objecting pharmacists can refer these customers to another pharmacist or even another store. Unfortunately, there are innumerable complications on the horizon of this immediate issue and answer.

Specifically, there is a continuing and growing ease with which we dispense and dispose of our unborn children in our culture. Already there exists a myriad of ways technology provides to eliminate them from the womb. Some are obvious and intentional, and some are not.

For example, even some contraceptives can, at times, abort an early embryo even though they are not prescribed for that purpose. Additionally, the very use of fertility drugs by women who want children often leads to abortion through selective reduction. Even standard IVF procedures involve the sacrifice of the unborn.

These examples make clear that as science and medicine continue to advance, the moral implications of reproductive technologies should be addressed – but by whom and when? Perhaps the doctors who line their pockets with the proceeds of these procedures aren’t the only people to ask for guidance. Maybe this is a job for the church; but when was the last time issues like these were discussed with your congregation?

As to the dispensing of do-it-yourself abortion pills, for now, it appears to be a matter of policy for individual pharmacists or pharmacies. Just out of curiosity – “What would you do?”

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