Pro-Life Pharmacist Under Fire for Refusing to Fill Drug Prescription

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 4, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Pharmacist Under Fire for Refusing to Fill Drug Prescription

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 4, 2004

Denton, TX ( — A pro-life pharmacist in Texas is under fire for refusing to fill a woman’s prescription for the "morning after pill" given to her by a doctor after she reported being raped. The incident is reviving the debate about whether pharmacists should have the ability to follow their conscience and opt out of dispensing drugs that can or do cause abortions.

The rape victim went to an Eckerd drug store in Denton on January 23 where the pharmacist worked, but only after visiting several other drug stores that did not stock the morning after drug.

The Eckerd pharmacist, whose name has not been released, refused to fill the prescription. She eventually was able to get the prescription filled at a Walgreens pharmacy across the street.

The Eckerd Corporation on Tuesday said it had disciplined the pharmacist for his actions.

Eckerd spokeswoman Joan Gallagher told the Associated Press she could not give details of the disciplinary actions, but said the pharmacist had violated company policy.

"A pharmacist is obliged to fill a prescription if it is a valid, legal prescription," she said. "We do not make exceptions for any moral, religious or ethical concerns with regard to filling the prescription."

Pro-life groups disagree and say that pharmacists should be able to opt out of dispensing drugs that can or do cause abortions, just as other health care workers, such as doctors and nurses, can choose not to perform abortions without facing job consequences.

"Health care providers, including pharmacists, should be never be forced to participate in procedures or practices to which they are morally opposed," Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life told "Forcing a pharmacist to participate in abortion through prescribing a pill that could cause a chemical abortion is outrageous."

More than two dozen pro-abortion protesters camped out in front of the Eckerd store on Monday and have been protesting throughout the week.

"To be faced with a pharmacist who moralizes to her, we find outrageous," Kathryn Allen of Planned Parenthood of Texas told WFAA-TV. "This is not a chemical abortion; this is a large dose of birth control pills to prevent an unwanted pregnancy."

Graham said abortion advocates refuse to support a conscience clause pro-life lawmakers wanted to add to a bill funding so-called emergency contraception that eventually failed in the state legislature.

"When abortion advocates were lobbying for the EC bill in the state house, they would not acknowledge the need for an ‘opt out’ clause or a conscience clause for those who were morally opposed to this powerful drug," Graham said.

"Now more than ever, we hope legislators will recognize the need for a conscience clause as most health care providers eschew participating in abortion of any type," Graham added.

The State Board of Pharmacy in Austin said pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription but only on medical grounds, not over moral concerns.

South Dakota has passed a law allowing pharmacists to opt out of dispensing drugs that could cause abortions or be used in euthanasias, but it is the only state to do so. Legislation to protect pharmacists has failed in some states and pending in others.
Florida-based Eckerd is owned by Texas-based retailer J.C. Penney.

Related web sites:
Texas Right to Life –