by Steven Ertelt
April 16, 2006
St. Paul, MN (LifeNews.com) — The Minnesota state House and Senate are both poised to take votes on bills that would establish a pharmacist’s conscience clause in the state. The measures would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing the morning after pill or birth control pills for moral or religious reasons.
Committees in both chambers have signed off on legislation and both bills now head to the floor of each respective branch for debate and a vote.
The measures both attempt to arrive at a compromise on the issue by allowing pharmacists to opt out of dispensing drugs that cause them moral or religious problems so long as they make sure the customer gets the prescription filled somewhere else.
John Stevens, president of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, likes the bill for that reason and told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, "It is critical that while protecting the ability of pharmacists to step away, patients are not abandoned."
Under both measures, pharmacists would be required to tell their employers in advance about possible problems with any drugs.
Rep. Tom Emmer, a pro-life Republican, is the sponsor of the House version of the measure while Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, a Democrat who has a mixed voting record on abortion, is the Senate bill sponsor.
Because the bills don’t learn too far one way or the other in protecting pharmacists or promoting a customer’s ability to get the morning after pill drug in all circumstances, neither Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state pro-life group, nor the pro-abortion Planned Parenthood abortion business have endorsed either bill.
"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.
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.