A prediction of sorts. Coming to a court near you, a lawsuit claiming that pharmacists who are fired for refusing to fill birth control prescriptions, are actually victims of job discrimination.
To date, the lawsuit hasn't been filed---but the writing is on the wall.
The Runaway Pharmacist controversy has been ramping up for the past three years and definitely has traction. Hand these pharmacists a prescription for birth control pills and they may do one or all of the following:
(1) lecture you on their religious beliefs
(2) refuse to fill the prescription
(3) refuse to return the prescription (this seems to have happened with the morning after pill rather than standard birth control pill)
Minnesota is just the latest state to become embroiled in this growing controversy.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
"No one knows how many pharmacists in Minnesota or nationwide are declining to fill contraceptive prescriptions. But both sides in the debate say they are hearing more reports of such incidents -- and they predict that conflicts at drugstore counters are bound to increase."
"Five years ago, we didn't have evidence of this, and we would have been dumbfounded to see it," said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. "We're not dumbfounded now. We're very concerned about what's happening."
But, M. Casey Mattox of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom said it is far more disturbing to see pharmacists under fire for their religious beliefs than it is to have women inconvenienced by taking their prescription to another drugstore. He also said that laws have long shielded doctors opposed to abortion from having to take part in the procedure.
"The principle here is precisely the same," Mattox said.
Earlier this week my friend Brian sent an email embedded with the The Star Tribune article (would include a link to the story at the Strib, but it's being archived in a couple of days).
The subject line in Brian's email:
STOP EXTREMIST PHARMACISTS AT SNYDERS
Snyders, a MN-based drug store chain, has a policy that allows pharmacists to refuse filling these prescriptions, providing the patient can get that prescription filled some place else "close" by the end of the day.
The article included an interview with Elizabeth Carpenter, vice present of public affairs for the Minnesota Pharmacists Association.
"Where you draw the line on the pharmacist's duty under the current law depends on what your definition of abortion is," she said.
Carpenter said her organization follows guidelines from the American Pharmacists Association that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense certain drugs as long as they make sure that the patient gets the care they need. She also said her group is reviewing its policies on the subject.
Writing about the controversy last September, The BBC said
"This year, 12 states took steps to try to introduce so-called conscience clauses. They allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs, including the Pill, on moral grounds, without losing their jobs.
In Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated assembly passed the bill, only to have it vetoed by the Democratic governor. "
Meanwhile, Washington has gotten into the act. CNN online reported in April that legislation was being introduced to pre-empt laws protecting these runaway pharmacists.
House and Senate backers unveiled a bill dubbed the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (ALPhA) on Thursday.
It would allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription only if the prescription can be passed to and filled by a co-worker at the same pharmacy.
The issue is sticky. In an article about the controversy, The Washington Post explained the point of view of the American Pharmacists Association, which supports the rights of runaway pharmacists.
"We don't have a profession of robots. We have a profession of humans. We have to acknowledge that individual pharmacists have individual beliefs," said Susan C. Winckler, the association's vice president for policy and communications. "What we suggest is that they identify those situations ahead of time and have an alternative system set up so the patient has access to their therapy."
Okay, I get it. This is a complicated issue.
But here's something that is not complicated. Snyders, and any other organization that permit runaway pharmacists, should have the courtesy of posting their policy prominently in the pharmacy area.
As an additional courtesy, they should post when a Runaway Pharmacist is on duty.
If that's the policy, just let me know so that I can be a Runaway Customer!