The Associated Press is reporting that
“a federal judge overreached when he sided with religious-freedom arguments to block Washington state’s rules mandating the sale of ‘morning-after’ birth control, appeals judges said Wednesday. The unanimous ruling, from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sends the politically thorny case back to U.S. District Court for further review.”
Commonly known as the morning after pill, Plan B is taken in two doses within 72 hours of unprotected sex and reduces the chances of pregnancy by 89 percent. It is an emergency contraceptive that works by preventing ovulation or fertilization, and is often confused with the abortion pill, RU 486.
Just this past April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement stating that it has “notified the manufacturer of Plan B that it may, upon submission and approval of an appropriate application, market Plan B without a prescription to women 17 years of age and older,” following a March 23 federal court order.
For some pharmacists, it is a matter of conscience, either because they do not believe in birth control at all, or because they do not believe in abortion and liken Plan B to RU 486.
The controversy over Plan B is far from over and will continue to be battled out in the courts for some time. We are a country that values individual rights, but just whose rights will prevail in this issue? The right of the patient to receive legally prescribed medication, or the right of the pharmacist not to go against his or her own moral and ethical values?
Certainly we all want the right to make individual choices and the right to live by our own conscience, but when we get into the issue of health care, things get sticky. If our pharmacists have moral objections to other treatments that our doctors prescribe, will they be allowed to refuse to dispense them? Will they withhold information? How and when will we be made aware of our pharmacists’ objections to our prescribed treatment?
The doctor-patient relationship depends on mutual trust. So does the pharmacist-patient relationship. We must have confidence that they are putting our health first, not passing judgement.
There are no easy answers to matters of conscience that involve health care. The courts have their work cut out for them on this one.
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