Iowa Pharmacy Group Drops Conscience Clause Proposal for Pharmacists

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 29, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Iowa Pharmacy Group Drops Conscience Clause Proposal for Pharmacists Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 29
, 2007

Des Moines, IA ( — The state pharmacy board in Iowa has dropped a proposal to create a conscience clause for pharmacists who object to dispensing certain drugs because they may cause an abortion. They said that nothing in state law prevents pharmacists there from refusing to dispense a drug that is morally objectionable.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners had considered recognizing the right of pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription or sell any drug that violated their religious or moral beliefs.

The desire for a conscience clause came after hearing about reports in other states where pharmacists had been terminated from their jobs or fined for refusing to fill a prescription. Most cases had to do with the morning after pill, which the FDA changed late last year to an over the counter drug.

The rule would have allowed pharmacists to opt out but mandated that they help the customer find another pharmacist or location to fill the order.

However, after complaints from pro-abortion groups, the state pharmacy board dropped the idea. It voted 5-0 Wednesday to scrap it.

Jill June, president of Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, said her group led an effort to get 300 people to complain to the board about the proposal.

To allow a pharmacist, purely on their own moral viewpoint, to trump the patient-doctor relationship — we thought that just wasn’t right," she told the Des Moines Register newspaper.

Lloyd Jessen, a board administrator, said pharmacists can opt out already but explained that the rule would have spelled out more clearly the process for doing so.

Pharmacists would likely have welcomed the conscience clause.

A December 2005 poll conducted by HCD Research of Flemington, New Jersey, surveyed 859 pharmacists and found 69 percent of pharmacists believe they should have the ability to decline filling prescriptions for the morning after pill.

The firm conducted the poll after news of four Illinois pharmacists fired from Walgreens stores near St. Louis after they said they would not fill orders for the Plan B drug because of their views on it.

HCD Research found that just 29 percent of those pharmacists polled believed Walgreens was justified in putting the pharmacists on unpaid leave.