Washington Pharmacy Board Backs Limited Pharmacists Conscience Clause

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 2, 2006

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — The Washington pharmacy board has endorsed a limited pharmacists conscience clause on the morning after pill that would allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing the drug but only if they provide a referral to a customer to get the prescription filled. The move enraged abortion advocates.

The board’s position mirrors that of the state pharmacy association, but defied the requests of abortion advocacy groups and pro-abortion Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat who wanted no conscience clause for pharmacists.

“The governor isn’t a pharmacist,” pharmacy board member Donna Dockter who led the effort to get a conscience clause, told the Associated Press.

The board backed the limited conscience clause on a 5-0 vote. Pharmacists can opt out of filling the prescription but cannot “obstruct a patient in obtaining a lawfully prescribed drug or device" and must assist the customer in finding a timely alternative.

The proposed rule will get additional public input before a final vote will be taken on it in August.

C.J. Kahler, past president of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, told AP that his group favors the board’s preliminary decision.

“The patient needs to get the medication they need; the pharmacist needs to be able to practice within their conscience limits. This allows both,” he said.

But Nancy Sapiro, an attorney with the Northwest Women’s Law Center, a pro-abortion law firm, told AP the decision is “profoundly disappointing.”

“It specifically creates an out for pharmacists who choose to refuse to fill prescriptions on their personal beliefs,” she said.

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."