Pharmacy Board says drug stores must fill all prescriptions, despite moral objections

Ruling could force pro-life pharmacists to fill Plan B prescriptions
by Bryan Malley
SEATTLE — The Washington State Board of Pharmacy ruled unanimously on April 13 that drug stores have a responsibility to fill all lawful prescriptions. The ruling mandates that a pharmacist's personal objection to any given medication cannot limit the patient's right to the drug.

Pro-life advocacy group Human Life of Washington is primarily concerned that pharmacists who believe the "morning-after" birth control pill—also known as Plan B—is on par with abortion will be forced to give out the drug anyhow.

"I don't think pharmacists who adhere to traditional moral precepts are going to allow their conscience to be overrun by the Board of Pharmacy," said Dan Kennedy, CEO of Human Life of Washington.

The Board of Pharmacy does have the power to revoke a pharmacist's license if he or she violates the new rule.

"Pharmacists and pharmacy owners are considering litigation challenging the rules as a violation of state and federal law," said attorney Kristen K. Waggoner of the law firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry. "The right of conscience is protected by both state statutes and the federal and state constitutions."

Mary Emmanuel, head of Silent No More Washington, said those pushing for this ruling have much to gain from forcing pharmacists to fill a Plan B order.

"The real motives of those pushing the drug and denial of conscience rights is to gain widespread distribution of the drug in order to: encourage sexual activity among teens and young adults, begin to force health care workers to participate in abortion services, increase the number of unwanted or out of wedlock pregnancies in order to increase the abortion rate and ensure profits for the drug's manufacturer, Barr Laboratories," Emmanuel said.

Emmanuel also speculated that this ruling will support preliminary efforts to have pharmacists distribute oral contraceptives outside of a doctor's visit.


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The federal Food and Drug Administration made the morning-after pill available over the counter to adults last August.

On April 13 a lawsuit was filed in federal court to challenge the FDA's decision. The suit was brought by the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and Safe Drugs for Women.

The lawsuit argues that the FDA committed legal violations to approve the drug because of "extreme political pressure" exerted by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Hilary Clinton (D-NY).

Plan B is a high dose of a drug found in many regular birth control pills. It can lower the likelihood of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

"The FDA buckled to pressure to do something it has never done before—making a high dose of a drug available without a prescription when a low dose of the same drug requires a prescription," said Wendy Wright, president of CWA. "The agency skirted laws and regulations put in place to ensure drugs are safe and effective, relenting under pressure from political operatives."

Published, May 2007