by Steven Ertelt
March 13, 2006
St. Paul, MN (LifeNews.com) — A Minnesota legislative panel has approved a pharmacist’s conscience clause bill that would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing the morning after pill or birth control pills for moral or religious reasons. The measure is on its way to the state House for a debate and vote.
The House Health Committee on Wednesday approved the legislation.
It allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense the drugs, including the Plan B pills which can sometimes cause an abortion. However, pharmacists who opt out must make sure customers can get the drugs from another pharmacy in a "timely" manner.
Rep. Tom Emmer, a Republican, sponsored the bill on behalf of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association in an attempt to strike a compromise between abortion advocates and pro-life groups.
"This is a compromise, balancing the liberty of pharmacists to exercise their conscience with the right and necessity of patients to get legally prescribed medication," Emmer told the Star Tribune newspaper.
Erin Matson of the National Organization for Women told the committee her group had problems with the bill and Rep. Tim Wilkin worried that pharmacists weren’t really getting a true conscience clause because they have to help customers get the drugs somewhere else.
Under the bill, HF 3032, pharmacists would need to notify their employers in writing that they do not wish to fill prescriptions for the drugs. A pharmacist can refuse to fill the prescriptions on "ethical, moral or religious grounds" but if they fail to notify their employer they could face discipline by the state Board of Pharmacy.
Michael Barrett, a Long Prairie pharmacist who is pushing for the bill, told the Duluth Superior newspaper that it will help pharmacists in the state.
"This is an issue that is gaining momentum across the country," he said. "I think we need to come up with a compromise."
Barrett manages a hospital pharmacy and said he was under pressure to dispense the Plan B drugs.
"I didn’t want to," he said, adding he is morally opposed to the drugs. "I believe there are other options. But this doesn’t mean a woman shouldn’t have access to Plan B. I just shouldn’t have to provide it."