by Steven Ertelt
May 18, 2005
Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — After a Wisconsin pharmacist came under attack for deciding against filling a customer’s prescription because he believed the drug causes abortions and violates his moral beliefs, state lawmakers are hoping to protect others who may face similar problems.
State legislators said pharmacists in the state shouldn’t have to decide between their religious or moral beliefs and keeping their job. Backers of a bill to protect such pharmacists appeared before a state Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Reynolds, a bill sponsor and chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Labor and Election Process Reform, said his legislation was needed to protects pharmacists’ rights of conscience.
His bill would prohibit the Wisconsin Pharmacy Board from punishing pharmacists who don’t want to dispense drugs, such as the morning after pill, that they believe cause abortions. Companies could also not fire such pharmacists under the bill’s language.
In July 2002, pharmacist Neil Noesen refused to fill the birth control prescription of a University of Wisconsin-Stout student. He also would not transfer Amanda Phiede’s prescription to another pharmacy.
In April, the Wisconsin Pharmacy Examining Board ruled that Noesen should be required to take ethics classes to continue employment as a pharmacist. The board also indicated Noesen would have to pay the $20,000 it cost for the agency and an administrative judge to rule on the matter.
Sen. Mary Lazich, a Republican, also backed the bill and said it offers the same kinds of protections given to doctors and other medical professionals, according to an Associated Press report.
Matthew Thill, who graduated Friday from the University of Wisconsin-Madison pharmacy program, told lawmakers that "Pharmacists should not have to worry about being fired for practicing their religious beliefs," AP reported.
However, abortion advocates oppose the legislation and claimed it would end up denying women access to contraception.
The bill has strong support in the state legislature, but pro-abortion Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, will likely veto it.
Last year, Doyle vetoed a similar bill that would have protected medical professionals from being forced to participate in euthanasia or in vitro fertilization.