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.

Via The Idaho Press Tribune:

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?”

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Shalvah Landy
Past Member 7 years ago

If you go into the health profession, as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or anyone dealing with the ill, you are there to administer to them and not to consider what you would do if it were you. Not the place for your personal beliefs. Why end here with this example, maybe I don't think a person who can't relate to his surroundings is 'alive' so I go ahead and 'help him die'?!

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton7 years ago

I thought a pharmesist just gives out prescriptions. They are not God and they are not Doctors. They are not caregivers or the person who would pay for an unwanted child. Who the hell are you people?

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

I have A LOT of complaints with the "conscience" clause. The pharmacist's job is to FILL RXes, NOT to enquire about the reasons. One must have a prescription to get a whole variety of drugs, not OTC -- if the woman had a prescription, that is the final act, not the pharmacist's O.K.

As the Repubs try to roll back history on women in this country, it is nothing less than being treated as second-class citizens, as children, who must have OTHER adults make their decisions for them. Women are adults. We are citizens. We already have the right to privacy on medical issues with our doctors. STAY OUT OF MY WOMB AND MY LIFE.

Lepidopter Phoenyx

If I go to a restaurant and order the shrimp cocktail and a bacon cheeseburger, can my Jewish waiter refuse to take my order because his god says my food choices are icky?
A waiter's job is to take food orders and deliver them to the table, not to decide whether or not the customer should be allowed to consume the meal he orders.

Likewise, a pharmacist's job is to dispense medications per the instructions on the prescription, not to decide that the customer can't have them because they might have done something that the pharmacist's god says is icky.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago

noted :0

Doug D.
Douglas D8 years ago

That pharmacist should lose his or her license.

Magie R.
Magie R.8 years ago

I don't see pharmacists asking for marriage certificates, a note from a wife and proof that said wife is capable of having children before they dispense viagra. What happened to the requirement of sex only in marriage and for procreation? This has nothing to do with 'morality' and everything to do with slapping women.

April Thompson
April Thompson8 years ago

Don't go into lines of work that go against any of your morals! It is not your job to judge others! It is your job to keep others safe and healthy!

Past Member 8 years ago

this pharmacists is a control freak...and if anyone..i don't care who they are want to substitute their values for a legal procedure and not perform the duties for which they were hired, i suggest they go work at a sandwich shop and give up the big bucks.....to impose their supposed "religious" beliefs on others is controlling, manipulative, and evil...this has nothing to do with their objections it has to do with their control issues and every one of them...regardless of where they work...need to be fired...now....you were originally hired to do a job and perform specific duties and if you now claim your religion prohibits your performance of duties...go scrub floors...

michael c.
corbin m8 years ago

You don't like aspects of a job, find another job.