Point: What Part of EC Don't You Understand?

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

As pharmacists across the countrycontinue fighting for recognitionof our professionalstatus and the ability to utilize our educationalexpertise to enter into collaborativepractices, a band of religiouszealots threatens to set our professionback to the dark ages.

Using the new availability of Plan B astheir battleground, they claim the cloakof conscience to impose a set of personalreligious beliefs on any women theymight be in a position to dominate.

In 1998, on the floor of the annual conventionof the American PharmacistsAssociation, a group of antiabortionactivists attempted to engineer, underthe banner of "moral grounds," their dictatesabout who should become a parent.Had they succeeded in their efforts,they would have overturned and revokedthe oath that decades of pharmacistshave sworn to—the same oath I sworeto. That oath did not give me the right topick and choose which prescriptions Ishould fill or which patients I shouldembarrass and abuse based on my personalreligious beliefs.

I recall the position I took at that 1998convention. The personal choice to notfill a prescription for an AIDS patientmight have resulted in the kinds of AIDSdilemmas facing third world countriestoday. It would have interfered with thedevelopment of antiretrovirals that aresaving lives today in the United States.

It is amazing that a majority of pharmacistsseeking to impose their conscienceson patients do not know thatemergency contraception (EC), dependingon the time in the menstrual cycle inwhich it is taken, may simply delay orinhibit ovulation, interfere with fertilization,or prevent implantation.

If those pharmacists cannot participatein the sale of a product that has thepotential to prevent more than 800,000abortions a year, can those pharmaciststruly call themselves pro-life?

Virtually all major medical and healthcare organizations supported making ECavailable without a prescription. Theseso-called pharmacy moralists lobbied tohave state laws passed to discriminateagainst all women, but especially againstyoung, low-income women.

I say "no" to conscience clauses. I callon pharmacists to display compassionand the perfect morality that comes byserving our patients with regard andrespect for individual needs and beliefs.

Mr. Tendler is a consultant pharmacistfor RX Care, a past president of theConnecticut Pharmacists Association, arecipient of the Bowl of Hygeia Award,and a past president of Pharmacists forChoice.