Can a Pharmacist Refuse to Fill a Prescription for Birth Control Pills?

Can a Pharmacist Refuse to Fill a Prescription for Birth Control Pills?

Article by Wendy Moyer

Does a pharmacist have the right to refuse to fill a legally obtained birth control pill prescription? A number of pharmacists certainly are trying.

According to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Nicole Safar, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin, said, “There has been a strong movement to restrict birth control over the past five or six years”.

Ms. Safar, who is a legal and policy analyst, went on to say, “There is an extreme religious view that equates birth control with abortion, and they have already gone as far as they can in restricting abortion.”

This concept was tested in the Wisconsin courts in March, 2008, when the 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that Wisconsin’s Pharmacy Examining Board was correct when they reprimanded and limited a pharmacist’s license after he refused to refill a young woman’s birth control prescription based on his religious beliefs.

In this case, the appellate court had ruled that Neil Noesen, the pharmacist actually had the right to refuse to provide the birth control pills. However he was wrong when he refused to allow the woman to get her prescription filled elsewhere.

Based on court records, on July 6, 2002, a University of Wisconsin-Stout student went into the Menomonie Kmart to fill her birth control prescription. Noesen asked her if her intent was to use the prescription for contraception.

After she acknowledged that this was her intent, Noesen, who is a Roman Catholic, said it was against his religious beliefs to till the prescription and refused to advise her as to where or how she would be able to get the prescription filled.

The woman left and took her prescription to a WalMart Pharmacy. The phramacy called Noesen. He refused to transfer the woman’s prescription. He subsequently said that if he transferred it that it would constitute participating in contraception.

Ordinary standard care, according to the judge, “requires that a pharmacist who exercises a conscientious objection to dispensing a prescription must ensure that there is an alternative mechanism for the patient to receive his or her medication, including informing the patient of their objections to obtain their prescription.”

In most states, including Wisconsin, health care workers, not pharmacists, are permitted to refuse treatment on moral grounds. The decision, written by Judge Michael Hoover, said Noesen actually, “…prevented all the efforts (the woman) made to obtain her medication elsewhere when he refused to complete the transfer and gave her no options for obtaining her legally prescribed medication elsewhere.”

The United States Supreme court holds that an individual’s religious beliefs don’t exclude compliance with “otherwise valid laws prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate”

About the Author

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Wendy Moyer on behalf of Sokolove Law.

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