Pro-Life Pharmacists Fired for Refusing to Fill "Morning After" Abortion Pill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Pharmacists Fired for Refusing to Fill "Morning After" Abortion Pill

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 12, 2004

Denton, TX ( — Three pro-life pharmacists have been fired for their refusal to fill a prescription for the so-called morning after pill. The action has revived the debate over whether pharmacists should be able to opt out of filling orders for drugs that can or do cause abortions.

According to the Associated Press, Denton, Texas pharmacist Gene Herr and two co-workers have been fired by Eckerd Corporation.

Herr refused to fill a woman’s prescription for the "morning after pill" given to her by a doctor after she reported being raped. He said he believes the drug can kill an unborn child shortly after fertilization has taken place.

He said he has declined to fill orders for the drug before, but this was the first instance where the customer was a victim of rape.

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. She eventually was able to get the prescription filled at a Walgreens pharmacy across the street.

"I went in the back room and briefly prayed about it," Herr, who had worked for Eckerd for five years, told AP. "I actually called my pastor at Denton Bible Church and asked him what he thought about it."

Earlier this month, Joan Gallagher, Eckerd’s vice president for communications, said Herr was disciplined but did not mention what actions the drug store chain took.

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

She said Eckerd’s employment manual says pharmacists may not opt out of filling drug scripts for religious or moral reasons. Herr told AP he was unaware of the policy until informed of it shortly before he lost his job.

"In my mind if I agree to work for someone knowing that that’s their policy, then I should submit to that policy. But I didn’t even know about it," Herr indicated.

Herr would not name the two other pharmacists who were also fired.

Pro-life groups 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 during the week after the prescription wasn’t filled.

"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."

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

Gene Rudd, associate director of the Christian Medical Association says forty-five states have passed conscience clause laws for physicians, and that protection could be extended to pharmacists — as has been done in Illinois and South Dakota.

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.

ACTION: Let the Eckerd Corporation know how you feel. Contact the company at PO Box 4689, Clearwater, FL, 33758, call 1-800-325-3737, fax a letter to 727-395-7063 or send an email message by going to

Related web sites:
Texas Right to Life –