Congress Holds Hearing on Pharmacists and Morning After Pill

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 26, 2005

Washington, DC ( — A House committee on Monday held a hearing on the problems associated with legislation that is forcing pharmacists to dispense abortion-causing drugs like the morning after pill. The hearing featured a debate on patient access to drugs versus respecting the moral beliefs of health care professionals.

Illinois Congressman Don Manzullo, a Republican, opened the House Small Business Committee hearing with comments about problems in his own home state.

There, Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order forcing all pharmacists to fill all prescriptions for legal drugs, including the morning after pill which can sometimes cause an abortion. Blagojevich faces three lawsuits from several pharmacists in the state seeking to overturn the order.

"No one, least of all a health care provider, should be required to violate his or her conscience by participating in procedures that he or she deems harmful," Manzullo said. "The government should never force anyone to choose between his business or his beliefs."

Rep. Nadia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, disagreed and said she found it "ironic" that Republicans support individual rights when it comes to pharmacists but don’t when it comes to abortion.

But, Illinois pharmacist Luke Vander Bleek said the debate was a human rights issue.

"I will not invest, and I will not practice in an environment in which we are legally obligated to be involved in the destruction of human life," he told lawmakers.

He said Blagojevich’s order "creates an environment in Illinois whereby a person holding deep moral convictions concerning the unborn cannot own and operate a licensed pharmacy."

Manzullo questioned Blagojevich senior policy advisor Sheila Nix. She admitted that the governor’s order would not force doctor’s to prescribe the morning after pills, but would mandate that pharmacists fill such orders.

During the hearing, one witness claimed she was "humiliated and discriminated against" by a pharmacist who told her he couldn’t fill her prescription. She later admitted she was able to get it filled at another nearby pharmacy just 20 minutes later.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican, told the witness that she shouldn’t expect convenience to trump moral convictions.

Manzullo’s committee is studying whether a federal law is needed to prevent pharmacists from facing employment discrimination in cases when they refuse to dispense drugs they believe cause abortions.

Wendy Wright, a policy director for Concerned Women of America, applauded Manzullo for the hearing.

She said the hearing provided a "thoughtful examination of Gov. Blagojevich’s insensitive order demanding that all pharmacies in Illinois provide the controversial drug known as the morning-after pill."

"At risk is each person’s ability to follow one’s conscience not to perform an activity that one believes could end another human’s life, and the survival of small businesses serving rural economies," she explained.