May 22, 2024

“Alarming” rise in pro-life US pharmacies

Abortion and women’s rights supporters fear the worst

Supporters of women’s reproductive freedom in the US are alarmed by the
growth in "pro-life pharmacies" which refuse to stock contraceptives, condoms or
morning-after pills. According to the Washington Post, this is a part of
a small but growing tendency for pro-life health care workers to refuse to
participate in procedures to which they have ethical objections. Karen Brauer,
president of Pharmacists for Life International, says that seven pharmacies
around the country have signed a pledge to follow "pro-life" guidelines. "It’s
just the tip of the iceberg," she told the Post. "And there’s new ones
happening all the time."

This development exasperates some bioethicists and women’s rights activists.
"We may find ourselves with whole regions of the country where virtually every
pharmacy follows these limiting, discriminatory policies and women are unable to
access legal, physician-prescribed medications," said R. Alta Charo, a
University of Wisconsin lawyer and bioethicist. "We’re talking about creating a
separate universe of pharmacies that puts women at a disadvantage." Critics
worry about women who have been raped, or who simply want to avoid the
consequences of a one-night stand.

Just as worrying is the fact that some pharmacists will not direct women to a
more compliant colleague. "If I don’t believe something is right, the last thing
I want to do is refer to someone else," says Michael G. Koelzer, a Michigan
pharmacist. "It’s up to that person to be able to find it."

Is this discrimination or healthy pluralism? Academics differ. "If you are a
health-care professional, you are bound by professional obligations," said Nancy
Berlinger, of the Hastings Center, a bioethics think tank. "You can’t say you
won’t do part of that profession." But Loren E. Lomasky, a bioethicist at the
University of Virginia in Charlottesville sees things differently. "In general,
I think product differentiation expressive of differing values is a very good
thing for a free, pluralistic society," he said. "If we can have 20 different
brands of toothpaste, why not a few different conceptions of how pharmacies
ought to operate?" ~ Washington
Post, June 16