When Conscience Clauses Can Kill
One of the measures being discussed within the new congress is a barrage of anti-abortion legislation including a federal conscience clause, that would let religious individuals opt out of performing tasks they feel is against their moral code.
Conscience clauses have mainly made the news as nurses refuse to assist in abortion care in hospitals, or pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs they believe are abortifacients. But in Idaho, one pharmacist went a step further — and could potentially have killed a woman in the process.
Idaho Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Mark Johnston confirmed that the board received the complaint alleging that on Nov. 6 a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill a prescription ordered by one of Planned Parenthood’s Boise-based nurse practitioners. The prescription was for a Planned Parenthood patient for Methergine, a medicine used to prevent or control bleeding of the uterus following childbirth or an abortion.
An inquiry to Walgreens’ Corporate office seeking comment was not immediately addressed.
Planned Parenthood officials said the complaint states that the pharmacist inquired if the patient needed the drug for post-abortion care. The nurse refused to answer the question based on confidentiality of health information.
According to Planned Parenthood, the pharmacist then stated that if the nurse practitioner did not disclose that information, she would not fill the prescription. The nurse alleged that the pharmacist hung up when asked for a referral to another pharmacy that would fill the prescription.
There are many issues with the pharmacist asking for the reason behind the prescription. The biggest, of course, is that if the nurse practitioner answered she would have been violating HIPAA Privacy Act, setting herself up for anything from lawsuit to firing or both.
But even if it were ok to divulge the information, then what? The pharmacist made it clear that she would only fill the order if it was for a woman who was having excessive bleeding due to childbirth, not abortion. By refusing to fill the prescription, she was in essence saying that a woman who had an abortion deserves to die for her actions.
Conscience clauses have been created to allow those with particular religious beliefs to avoid doing actions that are against their moral codes. And although I disagree with the practice, I can at least understand refusing to fill an order for birth control pills or the morning after pill on the grounds that you do not wish to be complicit in what you see as the “murder of a new life.”
But refusing a drug that stops bleeding? The abortion has already happened. The “murder” has already taken place. And by not allowing the patient to have medicine to control her bleeding afterward, and refusing to transfer the prescription so it could be filled in a timely manner, that pharmacist was not only not “saving a life” but could have caused the death of a woman in the process.
How is that “pro-life?”