Washington State Pharmacy Board Backs Off Pharmacist Conscience Clause

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 20, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington State Pharmacy Board Backs Off Pharmacist Conscience Clause Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 20, 2006

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — After coming under fire from pro-abortion lawmakers and activists, the Washington state pharmacy board is backing away from its proposal to grant pharmacists a conscience clause that would allow them to opt out of dispensing drugs such as the morning after pill, which may cause an abortion.

The board announced the proposal earlier this year, but voted unanimously on Thursday to reconsider the wording of it at its August meeting, where it was expected to be finalized.

"They wanted to have more discussion about the draft and decide if they may want to make any changes based on all the feedback they’ve been receiving," Steve Saxe, executive director of the board, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

Amy Luftig, a lobbyist for the Planned Parenthood Public Policy Network of Washington, one of the groups that bashed the board for considering pharmacist’s rights, told the newspaper "It’s encouraging to see that (the board members) are listening to … Washingtonians that don’t want them to adopt this policy."

The board said pharmacists should be allow to opt out of dispensing drugs that violate their moral or religious beliefs as long as they refer the customer to another pharmacist or pharmacy.

Under the previous proposal, pharmacists could have opted 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.

Though the limited conscience clause would have applied to all drugs, the morning after pill received the most scrutiny in public debate.

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, a pro-abortion Democrat who has adamantly opposed any kind of legal protections for the rights of pharmacists, threatened members of the board after the decision.

Saying the board "made a mistake," the governor warned that the state legislature could overrule the Pharmacy Board’s guidelines or even replace members of the board who supported the conscience clause.

Rod Shafer, executive director of the Washington State Pharmacy Association, which supported the limited conscience clause, told the newspaper the board faced intense pressure.

"I think they were under a lot of pressure, both from the public and from lawmakers who were feeling pressure from advocacy groups," he said.

Last month, owners of Ralph’s Thriftway, a pharmacy located on the East side of Olympia have decided they will not stock the morning after pill. Abortion advocates blasted their decision and protested at the store.

Washington is one of a handful of states that has authorized pharmacies to sell the Plan B drugs without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to allow that nationwide but has postponed a ruling.