Pro-Life Pharmacist in Wisconsin Faces Hearing Over Refusing to Fill Script

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Pharmacist in Wisconsin Faces Hearing Over Refusing to Fill Script Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 11, 2004

Madison, WI ( — A Wisconsin pharmacist under fire for refusing to fill a college student’s birth control prescription faced a disciplinary hearing on Monday after the student filed a complaint with a state regulatory agency.

In July 2002, pharmacist Neil Noesen, 30, said he would not fill the birth control prescription of a University of Wisconsin-Stout student because of his pro-life beliefs and concern that such pills can sometimes cause abortions.

Noesen also would not transfer Amanda Phiede’s prescription to another pharmacy.

According to an Associated Press report, a state Department of Regulation and Licensing attorney claimed during Monday’s disciplinary hearing that Noesen’s actions violated medical standards of care.

DRL attorney John Zwieg said Noesen could refuse to fill the prescription, but said he should have transferred it to another pharmacy to be filled.

Krystal Williams-Oby, Noesen’s attorney, said filling or aiding in the transfer of the prescription would violate Noesen’s conscience because he believes the birth control drugs can sometimes cause an abortion.

Williams-Oby told administrative law Judge Colleen Baird that Noesen did not violate any Wisconsin laws and his First Amendment rights to freedom of religion would be violated if she fined Noesen for his actions.

When he signed up to work at the K-Mart pharmacy in Menomonie, Wisconsin, Noesen spoke with a manager there and told him that he would not be able to fill prescriptions for certain drugs that he believes cause abortions.

Managing pharmacist Ken Jorandby told him that would be fine and that other pharmacists would fill the orders at another time.

Phiede went to a Wal-Mart pharmacy after Noesen, the only pharmacist on duty, said he would not fill the order. Noesen refused to transfer the birth control prescription out of the K-Mart system when Wal-Mart called him for information about the prescription.

Asked why she didn’t drive to another K-Mart pharmacy, Phiede said she didn’t think about it.

The Christian legal Society is helping Noesen with his legal defense.

"Noesen believes he cannot fill prescriptions for contraceptives without violating his duties before God. The state should respect that, especially when a patient will not be harmed," said Center Director Gregory S. Baylor, Esq.

The Wisconsin DRL board offered to settle the complaint last year by having Noesen pay a $250 fine and $300 in administrative costs. Noesen declined.

In a statement in December 2003, Noesen said he would contest the unprofessional conduct charges and said he was receiving help from a pro-life law firm.

That led to the hearing, which began Monday and concludes today.

Pro-life groups hope the case will be dismissed and say pharmacists shouldn’t be forced to be involved in dispensing drugs that can cause abortions. Meanwhile, abortion advocates say Noesen should be punished and that pharmacists shouldn’t make health care decisions.