Washington Pharmacy Board to Revamp Conscience Clause Over Next Month

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 5, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Pharmacy Board to Revamp Conscience Clause Over Next Month Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 5, 2006

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Despite protests from abortion advocates that it is too strong already, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy is going to spend another month to revamp a pharmacists’ conscience clause it drafted.

The new version may be stronger and provide more protections for pharmacists who don’t want to distribute drugs that violate their religious or moral beliefs.

The state board had already drafted a proposal that would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing a certain drug as long as another pharmacist is on hand to fill it and provided the pharmacist has told his employer he will want to opt out.

But on Tuesday, the board met for another public meeting to gather input in Kent and was supposed to review the draft and approve it. Instead, the members voted to create another draft that gives pharmacists more rights.

The board is expected to choose between the two proposals at a June 1 meeting.

Abortion advocates are not happy with the decision, saying they didn’t like the first draft and worrying the board will adopt a better proposal giving pharmacists further protections.

Amy Luftig, deputy director of public policy for Planned Parenthood told the Olympian newspaper that the process has become confusing.

“We have two drafts. One says a pharmacist shall fill. The other proscribes what a pharmacist should do if he or she chooses not to fill," she said. "The second one gives no guidance to the pharmacist on when they may or may not fill.”

Pharmacy Board member Donna Dokter is behind the newer proposal and Steve Saxe, executive director of the pharmacy panel discussed with the Olympian what has happened since.

“She brought in a draft that included other options where a pharmacist might not fill a prescription besides therapeutic contraindications or potentially fraudulent prescriptions,” Saxe said. “There were discussions on both sides of that by the board. They didn’t make a decision.”

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.

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.

Also, 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.