Washington Pharmacy Board Proposes Limited Pharmacist Conscience Clause

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 28, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Pharmacy Board Proposes Limited Pharmacist Conscience Clause

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 28, 2006

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — The Washington state pharmacy board has proposed a limited pharmacist’s conscience clause that would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing drugs that bring up moral or religious qualms, only if another pharmacist is on hand to fill the prescription. The proposal is just a draft and could still be changed.

Under the proposal, pharmacists would also be allowed to transfer a prescription to another pharmacy if it doesn’t care the drugs.

Essentially the conscience clause is mostly to do with the morning after pill, known as Plan B, which can sometimes cause an abortion.

The draft rule was crafted in response to a broader pharmacist’s conscience clause sponsored by the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

Steven Saxe, the pharmacy board’s executive director, told the Portland Oregonian newspaper that pharmacists who violated the rule, if adopted, would be subject to discipline by the state board. Pharmacies are not required to carry the morning after pill, but Saxe said he didn’t want them using that to deny customers the drug.

"I think the intent is to make sure that when somebody legitimately has a shortage of product, that they are not brought up for discipline," he told the Portland paper. "I don’t see that as the board looking at an out for not taking care of appropriate patient needs."

Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, wrote a letter to the pharmacy board saying she opposed the proposal. She doesn’t want any kind of measure to protect the rights of pharmacists, even on a limited basis.

The proposal isn’t final and the board plans another public meeting on May 2 to gather more input. The final version could be in effect by August.

Washington is one of a handful of states nationwide to allow over the counter sales of the morning after pill, which pro-life observers say makes it more important to have a pharmacists’ conscience clause.

Abortion advocates have said they oppose a conscience clause and want them to be forced to fill all prescriptions for legal drugs, even if those drugs can cause an abortion.

But pharmacists say a conscience clause is needed.

Daphne McBreen of Seattle said it’s not difficult for a customer to get another pharmacist to fill a prescription.

Jeffery Williams, a pharmacist with Saint Francis Hospital in Federal Way, agreed and told the board, "Suppression of conscience is coercion and discrimination," according to the newspaper.