Senate Bill Would Fine Pharmacists $1000 a Day for Refusing to Furnish Plan B

Pharmacists could soon face hefty fines for refusing to provide Plan B to women who request it.

Pharmacists could soon face hefty fines for refusing to provide Plan B to women who request it.

The “Access to Birth Control Act” (S. 2960) recently introduced in the US Senate by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker would require pharmacists to provide “any drug or device approved by the [FDA] to prevent pregnancy…without delay.” The bill explicitly states that emergency contraception would be included under the purview of the law.

Under the proposed legislation, pharmacists refusing to dispense emergency contraception would be fined $1000 per day until the prescription is filled, or up to $100,000 “for all violations adjudicated in a single proceeding.”

“Reports of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives, have surfaced in states across the nation,” the text of the bill reads. “Since emergency contraception became available without a prescription for certain individuals, refusals to provide non-prescription emergency contraception have also been reported.”

Interestingly, states like California, Oregon, and Tennessee are called out in S. 2960 because pharmacists in those states are legally authorized to furnish birth control without a prescription.

Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind law recently passed in Maryland requires health insurers to completely cover the cost of emergency contraception. Although the Affordable Care Act already requires health insurers nationwide to cover at least 1 method in each of the FDA’s 18 categories of contraceptive methods without co-pays, Maryland’s law mandates complete coverage of all forms of birth control, so women in the state may obtain the best method and formulation for them.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, co-sponsor of S. 2690, says the initiative will offer access to women who want to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“Access to contraception is a protected right for women,” he told Gray DC. “…Your access shouldn’t depend on the zip code you live in or the state you live in.”

Sen. Kaine stopped short of saying pharmacists shouldn’t be able to hold personal beliefs; he just doesn’t believe pharmacists should be able to let personal convictions interfere with their work.

“A pharmacist is free in their own life to live the way they want, but pharmacists should not, as a medical professional, block women from getting prescriptions,” he asserted.

A number of pharmacists in Washington State are currently fighting a similar law prohibiting the state’s pharmacists from using religious objections to refuse to dispense emergency contraceptives. In the past, Washington pharmacists have also been able to use religious objections to refuse to sell a product if another pharmacist in the store could provide the medication in their place.

S. 2960 has been assigned to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.