by Steven Ertelt
February 7, 2008
Pierre, SD (LifeNews.com) — The South Dakota Senate rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have watered down the conscience clause protections pharmacists enjoy there when it comes to abortion or assisted suicide. Opponents of the measure said the state government should not force pharmacists to act against their moral or religious views.
South Dakota is one of the few states to allow pharmacists to object to dispensing a drug because it could cause an abortion.
"We are Americans. You don’t tell people they have to do something that violates their conscience," AP said Sen. Jay Duenwald, a leading pro-life lawmaker, said during the debate.
SB 164 would have prevented pharmacists from using their objection to abortion as a reason for opting out of dispensing birth control or the morning after pill.
The Senate defeated Republican Sen. Ed Olson’s bill on a 22-12 vote.
The full body debated and voted on the bill after the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-3 for the measure.
Kate Looby, director of Planned Parenthood in South Dakota, supported the bill while Rita Houglum of South Dakota Eagle Forum, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sioux Falls, and the South Dakota Family Policy Council opposed it.
South Dakota joins Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi as the only states to protect the rights of pharmacists to opt out of dispensing drugs that violate their pro-life views.
Last month, the Indiana Senate voted 30-18 for a pharmacist’s conscience clause.
At least one survey has shown a majority of Americans believe pharmacists should be given a conscience clause to protect their moral and religious views.
The Baraga Interactive polling firm conducted the survey in late 2006 for Pharmacists for Life International and found that a majority of Americans favor pharmacists being able to enjoy freedom of conscience when filling or counseling about drugs.
Sixty-five percent support a pharmacist’s right to decline to fill or counsel for prescription drugs which violate their moral or religious views.