Wisconsin Pro-Life Pharmacist’s Case Heads to State Supreme Court
by Steven Ertelt
April 23, 2008
Madison, WI (LifeNews.com) — A pro-life Wisconsin pharmacist is taking his case to the state Supreme Court after a state appeals court ruled against him. The 3rd District Court of Appeals in Wisconsin last month upheld a ruling by the state Pharmacy Examining Board against Neil Noesen.
Noesen was from a K-Mart store in 2002 and claimed religious discrimination for not wanting to fill prescriptions for drugs he says can cause an abortion.
The medical professional is one of a growing number of pro-life pharmacists not wanting to distribute the birth control drug or emergency contraception pill.
"Mr. Noesen is being punished for refusing to compromise his beliefs," Paul Linton a special counsel for the Thomas More Society, told LifeNews.com on Wednesday.
"The Pharmacy Examining Board’s action violates his rights of conscience, clearly protected by the Wisconsin Constitution," he added.
"We hope the Wisconsin Supreme Court will restore Mr. Noesen’s right to express his deeply held beliefs. Being tolerant of what others believe is the definition of a free society," Linton said.
Noesen refused to fill university student Amanda Phiede’s oral contraceptive prescription while he was working as a substitute pharmacist at a K-Mart pharmacy in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
Phiede then asked him where else she could get the prescription filled, and Noesen refused to provide her with that information and wouldn’t transfer the script to another pharmacy.
The state Pharmacy Examining Board sanctioned Noesen in 2005 in the case.
It required him to state ethics classes and pay back almost $21,000 in costs it incurred to investigate his situation. Doing those things were a condition of him receiving his license back.
Both a Wisconsin Circuit Court and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the order of the Pharmacy Examining Board .
Prior to refusing to fill or transfer the prescription, Noesen notified his employer of his conscientious objection to contraceptives. K-Mart had adopted a procedure for accommodating his beliefs without losing customers but it was not followed in this particular case.
As Noesen explained to the court, "With good conscience, I can’t aid, abet, encourage, refer, transfer, or participate in any way with something that I feel would be impairing the fertility of a human being."
The customer’s prescription was ultimately filled and she did not become pregnant from missing a single dose of her prescription.
The state appellate court upheld the 2006 ruling of Barron County Circuit Judge James Babler which validated the reprimand.
In addressing his appeal of a judge’s decision upholding the sanctions, the appeals court panel said Noesen had the right to refuse to dispense the objectionable drugs but should have referred the customers to another pharmacist.
Judge Michael Hoover wrote, Noesen "prevented all the efforts [Phiede] made to obtain her medication elsewhere when he refused to complete the transfer and gave her no options for obtaining her legally prescribed medication elsewhere."
"The board could therefore properly conclude that he violated a standard of care applicable to pharmacists," he added.
Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life International, previously talked with LifeNews.com about the case.
"There has been no proof of harm, or possible harm coming to the patient from being deprived of her medication until the next day," she said.
"Birth control pills used for that stated purpose are not a medical necessity, since there are other options for preventing birth," the brief states.
Brauer pointed out that the state of Wisconsin does not have a law mandating that pharmacists transfer a prescription to another pharmacy if the pharmacist cannot fill it.
"Therefore, Neil Noesen has broken no pharmacy regulation," Brauer said.