Pharmacists Must Dispense Plan B

Remember those pharmacists who refused to dispense Plan B (a “morning-after” pill) because they were religiously opposed to it?

And remember how pissed off you were because who the $#&% are they to decide what’s best for women?

Pharmacists in Washington state had filed a lawsuit so they wouldn’t have to do their job and fill those orders. A district court agreed and granted them a temporary injunction saying they wouldn’t have to fill those prescriptions.

On Wednesday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to lift the injunction. Those pharmacists can no longer withhold the pill from customers. Hallelujah!

The three 9th Circuit judges found common ground despite differing outlooks: Two conservatives named to the court by President George W. Bush and a liberal named by President Clinton made up the panel.

The right to freely exercise one’s religion “does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” the 9th Circuit panel wrote.

“Any refusal to dispense — regardless of whether it is motivated by religion, morals, conscience, ethics, discriminatory prejudices, or personal distaste for a patient — violates the rules,” the panel said.

If you’re interested, you can read the actual decision here (PDF).

Again, the pharmacists have a right to practice their religion, but not at the expense of someone else’s health. A woman shouldn’t have to suffer because some pharmacists can’t do their job properly. If they are opposed to dealing with contraceptives, they’re in the wrong line of work.

If I, as a vegetarian, worked at Subway but refused to make sandwiches with meat on them because that went against my Jain religion, I would rightfully be fired. The bigger question, though, would be why I decided to take that job in the first place.

(via Feministing — Thanks to June for the link!)

  • ATL-Apostate

    I ran into this with a pharmacist in NC (Elizabeth Dole’s home state). The pharmacist refused to provide it to a 10yo who was raped by her dad. Extremely frustrating. Hopefully this ruling will pave the way for similar laws in all 50 states.

  • Cypress Green

    This whole issue has been especially irritating to me as I work for a hospital. A pharmacist’s job mostly is to dispense drugs prescribed by physicians, educate patients and check for drug interactions. (a few other things as well)
    NOT to decide what medications the patient is prescribed!

    They are hired to FILL THE MDs’ ORDERS. It should be obvious to all that if they don’t want to actually do the most basic part of their jobs, they are in the wrong career.
    Geez, how hard is that?

    I work in Radiation, and have known a few co workers who have looked down on patients with lung, liver or kidney cancer when it was due to their lifestyle, or worse, hated homosexuals and thought they got what they had coming when diagnosed with Karposi’s Sarcoma. Guess what. They gave treatments just they same and griped out of earshot of patients. That’s life.

    Personally, I make a point of being especially nice to patients I know have AIDS, will hold their hands, and hug them goodbye when their treatments are over (if I know them well enough). Cause I bet enough nimrods out there avoid them like the plague.

  • dersk

    You know, I was against forcing pharmacists to dispense stuff against their will – until you pulled out the veggie example.

  • SarahH

    The college I attended has only one doctor on staff at the student health center, and for years he has refused to prescribe Plan B to students. Now that it’s finally behind-the-counter (no prescription necessary) for those 17 and up, you’d think there wouldn’t be a problem. But he refuses to stock the student health center with it, so students are still forced to go off-campus if they need it. In an emergency (which is when you need Plan B), every minute can count, and this jerk is still being allowed by the college to withhold a standard, legal drug from students because of his religious beliefs.

    I wish that my college either had a backbone (it’s not a conservative school, but the administration/board is) or that some sort of federal ruling would stop doctors like this from essentially refusing to fully do their jobs.

  • dersk

    Although thinking about it, a pharmacy should be able to decide not to stock RU-186.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    I’m very glad to hear that pharmacies have to dispense Plan B. It is not up to a pharmacist to decide for women whether or not we should prevent a pregnancy.

    I also have to say, I disagree with your categorizing this one under Abortion. Plan B is preventing pregnancy, not terminating it. It has no effect on an existing pregnancy. Posting it under Abortion is likely to give some people the wrong idea. Maybe you could come up with a new catagory, like Women’s Issues or something that would be a better place for it?

  • Epistaxis

    If I, as a vegetarian, worked at Subway but refused to make sandwiches with meat on them because that went against my Jain religion, I would rightfully be fired.

    But that’s up to your local Subway franchise. Whereas, if you required a license to dispense hoagies, the state would rightfully revoke it.

  • Miko

    Again, the pharmacists have a right to practice their religion, but not at the expense of someone else’s health.

    Not quite. A pharmacist has the right to practice her religion and to refuse to fill prescriptions necessary for someone else’s health, just so long as she does so by quitting her job.

  • River

    Yay! Now I expect to hear a lot of vitriol on conservative talk stations, especially locally. *sigh*

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    In my high street there are three pharmacists. If I had to drive to get to one I could reach literally dozens within 30 minutes. In my ignorance I assume that one jackass pharmacist refusing to sell an over the counter drug would just be losing business and getting a reputation for poor service. Is this really a problem for people?

    Even if that isn’t the point (which it isn’t) shouldn’t such ignorance behaviour be allowed. A private business can sell whatever it wants to whomsoever it chooses at whatever price it can command. That includes Hemant’s Vegetarian Subway. If the flesh eating hordes of Jesusland refuse to buy his tasty egg plant and chilli wrap then he will go out of business. If he’s working for a rib munching carnivore who wants to sell meat and he, as an employee, refuses to do his job then he is quite rightly unemployed.

    The only problem I see with market forces taking care of such ass hattery is if Hemant’s Meatless Substitute Subway or Ass Hat Pharmacy has a monopoly in that business. Pharmacists and Subways are as ubiquitous as churches though, aren’t they?

    How wrong am I about American culture?

  • Anticontrame

    Hoverfrog, market forces also have no protections against the tyranny of the majority. There are plenty of conservative locals that would have no problem driving pharmacies that DO offer plan B out of business.

  • jemand

    hoverfrog there are some places where pharmacies aren’t as common… and you are exercising some serious privalege when you assume everyone could “just drive somewhere” to fill a prescription.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    hoverfrog: If everyone in the US lived in an area like you that would be the case. However not everyone does especially in rural areas, to give an example:

    There is only one pharmacy in my town and the previous pharmacist is currently in jail for shorting prescriptions in order to steal pain pills to sell. My mom was one of the people who’s prescription for vicodin he shorted while she was going through cancer treatment. The next nearest pharmacy is a 40 minute drive which made it very inconvenient for my mom to get her prescriptions filled during that time. Imagine what it was like for the elderly and others who had a difficult time traveling that distance in order to get their prescriptions.

    I can imagine especially in more conservative areas of the country women in rural areas having little access to birth control if their local pharmacist is refusing to dispense it. In cases where Plan B is needed it’s even worse because of the time restriction.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    This is great news. Good to see these types of reversal decisions.

    I can’t imagine say a firefighter that refuses to put out fires because he doesn’t agree with putting out fires for certain people.

    As I’ve always said, if you can’t do your job because your religious or conscience gets in the way, then it’s time to find a new job.

  • Sebeka

    My s/o used to work in chain retail pharmacies in Florida and he says that they made him sign an agreement listing what(if any) prescriptions he had a problem with and stating that he understood that all prescriptions would be filled, regardless.

    Basically, if a pharmacy employee didn’t like a prescription, they were allowed to say, “I’ll get someone to fill that for you,” and leave the counter immediately. Nothing else.

    Of course, this meant that those employees could only be scheduled during the same hours as a non-discriminatory worker, effectively limiting their work hours.

  • Tony

    In my line of work it’s important to leave your prejudices at home, and it’s the same thing with pharmacists. It’s absolutely right, if you don’t want to do the job to the full then find a new line of work.

  • GreyTheory

    The only issue I have with this concerns the pharmacists who started their careers prior to this drug’s approval (which was only 2000 in the United States). It seems rather unfair to force them to fill these perscriptions..

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Anticontrame, thank you, a point I had overlooked.

    Jemand, I am certainly exercising my privilege but I do so from a position of someone who comes from a country with an average of 251 people per square mile rather than the 79.6 per square mile that the US apparently has. This is a disparity that I clearly have trouble getting my head around.

    Noadi, thank you. Clearly pharmacists are not as ubiquitous as churches in the US. Maybe you should convert a few.

    I also forgot that you don’t have a central health service that you can call on. In England a prescription can be delivered to those who are unable to collect them at no extra fee. OK the people pay for it in extra taxation but that’s a fair trade off isn’t it? Prescriptions are also subsidised so they are set at a flat fee no matter how expensive the drugs (or how cheap) and they are free to those on benefits.

    Pharmacists are also licenced by a central body but I don’t think this is a state function. Rather than adding to the long waiting list of court cases there is a government appointed ombudsman who deals with complaints if they fail at a local level. As there are for just about any service you can think of. If the US doesn’t have any of that then the court is your only option which is a shame in a way. Ombudsmen act as a buffer between citizens and courts and seek to resolve issues before the courts get involved. You must have a lot of lawyers.

    Oh well, it seems I was wrong about this but it’s good to be corrected. Thanks.

  • tamarind

    Good to hear. I can’t imagine those silly pharmacists would prefer that women who couldn’t get the morning-after-pill resort to abortion instead. Plan B prevents abortions aplenty.

  • stogoe

    The bigger question, though, would be why I decided to take that job in the first place.

    It’s no secret – if you’re the only pharmacist within 50 miles, and you won’t sell condoms or birth control or plan B, you’ve made them effectively outlawed in your town.

    I can’t imagine those silly pharmacists would prefer that women who couldn’t get the morning-after-pill resort to abortion instead. Plan B prevents abortions aplenty.

    That’s the thing – they think Plan B is the abortion pill. It’s exactly the same thing to them as getting an abortion. And now that they’ve slautghtered George Tiller, there aren’t any abortion providers from North Dakota to Texas. They can’t overturn Roe v Wade (and why would they want to?), but they can make abortions and contraception completely unavailable outside of the coasts. Conscience clauses for pharmacists are one of their major weapons.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    @dersk

    I think you mean RU 486. RU 486 (mifepristone) is a pill which causes an abortion. It is not Plan B, which prevents pregnancy (and abortion). Mifepristone is not available by prescription. It is gotten directly from a physician. I know this is off-topic, but the comment kind-of irked me.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Beth is correct.

  • tamarind

    And now that they’ve slautghtered George Tiller, there aren’t any abortion providers from North Dakota to Texas. They can’t overturn Roe v Wade (and why would they want to?), but they can make abortions and contraception completely unavailable outside of the coasts.

    It’s quite an exaggeration to say there are no abortion providers from North Dakota to Texas. Even in Utah, there are two (legitimate, operating) clinics. It’s still a long drive or even a plane flight for a lot of women, but at least the clinics haven’t been shut down.

  • Maggie

    “And remember how pissed off you were because who the $#&% are they to decide what’s best for women?”

    and who are you to decide that pharmacists have to help women to kill their babies?

    Maybe giving drugs to help the sick is their thing and assisted murder not so much. Maybe.

  • http://www.turntheclockforward.org/ Jen R

    Maggie, are you aware that recent research indicates that Plan B likely has no post-fertilization effect?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    Maggie, if you don’t want to use plan B, then don’t fucking use it. You don’t get to decide for the rest of us.

  • JenV

    Damn straight, Beth. Damn straight.


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