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45 Washburn L.J. 415 (2005-2006)
Conflicts of Conscience

handle is hein.journals/wasbur45 and id is 425 raw text is: Conflicts of Conscience

Katherine A. James*
When he told me he wouldn't fill it, I just pulled over in the parking
lot and started crying. I just couldn't believe it. I was just trying to be
responsible. 1
In Texas, a pharmacist refused to fill a rape victim's emergency
contraceptive prescription.2 A Wisconsin student encountered a phar-
macist who refused to fill her birth control prescription and refused to
transfer it to another pharmacist.3 A pharmacist told a woman in
Minnesota seeking birth control to return in a few days to have a dif-
ferent pharmacist assist her.4 These are just a few of the reported
incidents of pharmacists refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions be-
cause of the pharmacists' own personal beliefs.5 These beliefs, how-
ever, conflict with the customers' right to take the prescribed
A refusal to fill a legally valid prescription violates a woman's
right to contraception and her right to make independent medical de-
cisions.6 Refusals also infringe on equal protection rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment.7 However, forcing pharmacists to fill pre-
scriptions that are in conflict with their religious beliefs is a violation
* B.S.S.W., 2000, Saint Louis University; J.D. Candidate 2006, Washburn University
School of Law. I would like to thank the faculty of the law school and the members of the
Washburn Law Journal for their guidance. I also thank my family for their continued support.
1. Rob Stein, Pharmacists' Rights at Front of New Debate, WASH. POST, Mar. 28, 2005, at
A01 (quoting Suzanne Richards). Richards was twenty-one when she attempted to have her
emergency contraception filled in New Hampshire. Id. The pharmacist refused to fill her pre-
scription, called her irresponsible, and lectured her. NAT'L WOMEN'S LAW CTR., PHARMACY
REFUSALS 101 2 (2005), available at http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/11-05Update-PharmacyRefusall0l.
pdf. Because she was unable have the prescription filled in time, Richards missed the recom-
mended seventy-two hour time frame for taking the medication. Stein, supra.
2. All Things Considered: Texas Legislature Bill Aims to Protect Pharmacists that Refuse to
Fill Prescriptions Based on Their Personal Beliefs (NPR radio broadcast Apr. 5, 2005). A friend
attempted to fill an emergency contraceptive prescription for the rape victim while the victim
waited in the car. Contraception: Pharmacist's Refusal to Fill Emergency Contraception Script
Raises Questions, WOMEN'S HEALTH L. WKLY., Mar. 21, 2004, at 28. The pharmacist refused to
fill the prescription, and the friend equated this refusal to a second victimization. Id. The
pharmacist was subsequently terminated for his conduct. Id.
4 (2005), available at http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/Issues/contraception/loader.cfm?url=/
commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PagelD=17602 [hereinafter GUARANTEE]. Also, in Wiscon-
sin, a pharmacist refused to fill the emergency contraception prescription of a married woman.
Stein, supra note 1. The woman and her husband had decided that a fifth child was not finan-
cially feasible for them. Id. Their need for the emergency contraception arose when their con-
dom broke. Id.
4. GUARANTEE, supra note 3, at 1.
5. See, e.g., id.; Molly M. Ginty, Pharmacists Dispense Anti-Choice Activism, WOMEN'S
ENEwS, May 2, 2005, http://womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2278/content/archive.
6. See infra Part III.A.1.
7. See infra Part III.A.2.

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