Should pharmacists be required to violate their religious beliefs and dispense the "Morning After Pill?"
Previously published on March 21, 2008
Pharmacists are professionals who are responsible for the distribution and the handling of controlled substances. They can also be business owners who have the power to dictate store policy on the sale and stocks of items that they feel should not be sold in their store. That, religious beliefs and ethical reservations may impact the manner in which any businessman conducts business.
On the other hand, pharmacists are medical professionals who are bound to uphold their profession's ethical standards and professional obligations while their conduct falls under government regulation as they are medical providers whose behavior can seriously injure or kill a customer. As such, when issues like dispensing the so-called "Morning After Pill" come face to face with a pharmacist's ethical and religious beliefs, the chance of conflict is great.
The "Morning After Pill" is a high dose of birth control hormones, such as progesterone or estrogen, which prevents an embryo from attaching to the lining of the uterus or results in the expulsion of the egg cell before conception can occur, originally intended to be taken a few hours after a female has been raped. As some forms of the pill can be used abort a newly conceived fetus, in many respects, it is a form of chemical abortion.
From a legal standpoint, the issue of abortion remains incomplete as the Courts recognize a non-absolute right to an abortion, but Congress has refused to adequately address where the limits of abortion should be set. Therefore, the morning-after-pill remains a valid option; however, it is a serious medication, so it must be well regulated, prescribed by a doctor who is responsible for ensuring a patient uses it safely, and subjected to the ethical guidelines of the medical profession.
Furthermore, the medical profession has not adequately addressed the issue of abortion to determine which abortion options fall under the ethical limits of the medical profession, partially because many doctors may fear restrictions might drive women back to home abortions. Consequently, unless the use of the morning-after-pill is completely rejected by the medical community, pharmacists must honor a doctor's prescription.
If a pharmacist is presented with a valid prescription, it is their professional obligation to dispense the medication, if it is available, to a customer who fully understands the medical consequences of taking the medication regardless of the pharmacist's personal beliefs or feelings. On the other hand, any form of abortion is a serious medical procedure and as use of the morning-after-pill is essentially a chemical abortion with serious consequences that a women's doctor should be fully aware of, it is the responsibility of doctors to oversee the use of this medication.
Pharmacists should not be dispensing the morning-after-pill unless it is a hospital pharmacy and the doctor, who prescribes the pill, is directly overseeing the care of the patients in the medical facility. Laws, which advocate for the prescription-free dispensing of medications that affect the human body in a serious manner, need to be closely reviewed as they may support personal freedoms, but they certainly do not reflex the person's best interests or the government's interest and duty to protecting its citizens.