Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pharmacists want choice

The White House says it expects the FDA to enforce the restrictions on over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill. It's being made available without a prescription to women 18 and older. But the head of the National Partnership for Women and Families says since the drug is safe at any age, the restriction is "arbitrary and baseless.'' Now, the debate over the drug turns to pharmacists.Do they have a right to refuse to dispense the drug based on moral grounds? We put that question to Michiana-area pharmacists.One local pharmacist who says he doesn't want to give out the drug because he says it goes against his moral beliefs. We talked to another small pharmacy in town and they're not going to sell it -- period."I feel that pharmacists should be able to refuse based on their conscience," said Larry Taylor. Taylor works at a local Michiana pharmacy, but didn't want to say which one. For Taylor selling the drug goes against his morals."When you're participating in something like that that causes an abortion then you're harming the patient."But, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson told us over the phone that women shouldn't be turned down when they go to get the drug. The spokesperson says the earlier a woman takes it, the safer she is from risks or side effects.Some people with pro-choice beliefs think a woman should be able to buy the drug at any pharmacy.Planned Parenthood says it may be easier for people to get the pill at bigger chain pharmacies rather than local or independent ones. Taylor says regardless of where a person buys the drug, there may be more at stake than just morals."If you've got a young lady that's coming in and taking this on a regular basis or maybe just once or twice their immune system's lowered." One pharmacist says there's a loophole in the new regulation that some parents may want to know about. The rule says women under 18 still need a prescription to buy it. But, he says a person over 18 like another woman or even a man could buy them and give them to someone underage.The dean of Rutgers Pharmacy School said he doesn't see much impact. If your pharmacist wouldn't give you the pill with a prescription, he or she probably won't do it now that it's over the counter.

The idea of restricting plan b to persons 18 and over does have a medical aspect to it. Persons under 18 may not know their family medical history well enough to make an informed choice and would be at higher risk of facing some complications. That, honestly, is not a significant reason behind that decision. Quite simply the most compelling reason is that families do not want their daughter making that decision independently believing it is rich in moral complexity. They want to guide and/or support their daughter through that decision. This is also a decision wrought with political overtones because of the emotions involved and the political lobbying involved in the abortion debate.

I am surprised that pro-choice activists believe that they have the right to FORCE a business to carry any specific product. I believe that many smaller businesses will choose not to provide the product rather than be seen as entering into the abortion debate. The handful of plan b pills that they will sell in the store will not be worth the loss in their reputation and the dollars at the end of the month.

I also believe that pro-life activists will carefully monitor pharmacies for compliance i.e. having girls under the age of 18 go in and try to get the pills.

Many pharmacists are just going to choose not to carry the product.

Do they have that right? I emphatically believe individual businesses do have that right. Individual pharmacists is much greyer to me. Personally if I were a pharmacist I would believe that I had to find another career or I had to operate my own pharmacy and make the rules for my own business. I do not believe that I would have the right to be behind the counter and unwilling to fill ANY prescription on my employer's timetable. I believe that it's reasonable to ask a colleague to do it but if that option is not available I think you have to find a different vocation.


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