Planned Parenthood Blasts 'Dangerous Trend' of Pharmacist Refusals

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - The Planned Parenthood Federation of America is blasting a Texas pharmacist who refused to fill a birth control prescription on ethical grounds.

"On behalf of America's women, I want your personal guarantee that this will never happen again," Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt wrote in a letter to the head of the CVS pharmacy chain.

"We want to know the immediate steps you will take to guarantee that all CVS pharmacies ensure that every patient's prescription is filled...I urge you to consider whose conscience really counts here," Feldt wrote to CEO Tom Ryan.

According to Planned Parenthood, a CVS customer named Julee Lacey was told by a CVS pharmacist on Monday that he did not believe in birth control and therefore would not fill Lacey's prescription.

At first, CVS stood by the pharmacist, saying his refusal to fill prescriptions based on personal beliefs was in line with CVS policy. But soon afterwards, Planned Parenthood said, callers to the CVS customer service line were told that the Texas pharmacist had not followed company policy.

CVS pharmacists who refuse to fill prescription on moral or ethical grounds are supposed to make sure that prescription is filled by another pharmacist or at another pharmacy, according to Planned Parenthood.

"Contraception is basic medicine for women," Feldt said. "The refusal to provide it is an unacceptable imposition of narrow personal ideology on women's rights."

Feldt said such "pharmacy refusals" constitute a "dangerous emerging trend."

"We won't stand silently by while Julee Lacey and women like her are denied the basic health care they need," Feldt said in a press release.

In February, an Eckerd pharmacist in Denton, Texas, refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraception for a woman who said she had been raped. That pharmacist was fired under pressure from outraged groups such as Planned Parenthood.

'Difficult dilemma'

In a 1997-1998 report, the American Pharmacists Association Policy Committee noted that "balancing the needs of pharmacists as individuals with their responsibility as health care professionals poses a difficult dilemma."

The Committee recommended that pharmacists be allowed to refuse dispensing medications they consider morally objectionable. But, said the committee, that refusal to dispense "must be accompanied by responsibility to the patient...ensuring that the patient will be referred to another pharmacist or be channeled into another available health system."

"Providing alternative mechanisms for patients in this situation ensures patient access to drug products, without requiring the pharmacist or the patient to abide by personal decisions other than their own," the policy statement said.

But that "conscience clause" doesn't go far enough for a pro-life pharmacy group.

Pharmacists for Life International said pharmacists with moral objections to dispensing abortion-producing drugs cannot be compelled to offer "material cooperation" that will result in a "dead baby."

In other words, the group said, pharmacists who refuse to dispense medication on moral grounds should not be required to refer patients to other pharmacists or pharmacies, knowing that "evil" will result.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.