What Pharmacy Denials in Missouri Would Mean for Me

Going to the pharmacy and picking up prescriptions is a part of most people’s regular routine.  Consumers go online or place a phone call, schedule a time to pick up their meds and then go get them.  But, as more states debate legislation designed to protect pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions on moral grounds, many consumers may be faced with a debate, forced public disclosures or delay at the pharmacy counter.  Missouri legislators have made filing legislation protecting pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions on moral grounds an annual event.  That trend has resulted in an annual reflection on what a refusal at the pharmacy would mean in my life and the lives of my fellow Missourians.

State Representative David Sater (R) has filed legislation that “specifies that no licensed pharmacy can be required to perform, assist, recommend, refer to, or participate in any act or service in connection with any drug or device that causes a pregnancy to end prematurely resulting in an abortion.”  Since individuals cannot purchase the pill approved for abortion (mifepristone) over the counter, that leaves us with a bill that would protect pharmacists should they refuse to dispense any other medication that they feel may have an adverse affect on a pregnancy.

The intent of this legislation is to mislead Missourians into thinking that emergency contraception, which is available over the counter, is an abortifacient.  It’s not, but that hasn’t stopped anti-choice advocates from saying otherwise.  One would think that State Representative David Sater, who was named Pharmacist of the Year in 1983, would know the difference. The legislation, HB 28, also seeks to accomplish its stated goal and protect pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions and cite moral grounds.  That protection would extend to a pharmacists’ refusal to refer consumers to another pharmacy.  Anti-choicers hope that this will create an environment where women seeking emergency contraception are delayed long enough to take that option to preventing pregnancy off the table.  For many women living in parts of Missouri where there may only be one pharmacy serving their community that is a very real possibility.

Beyond the goals behind this latest version of pharmacy denial legislation there is the potential reality – that consumers may or may not face a denial at the counter depending on which pharmacist is on duty and what their personal moral beliefs are.  I can’t help but take that possibility personally.  For over a decade I took birth control pills to treat endometriosis and uterine fibroids.  When I first heard of legislation protecting pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions I immediately thought of my own and what that would mean for me.  I live in St. Louis city and have a lot of options when it comes to getting a prescription filled, but that didn’t stop me from imagining the scene at my local pharmacy. 

I visualized myself standing at the pharmacy counter thinking of the errands I still had to run only to have the pharmacist tell me that, because of her or his moral objection to birth control pills, my prescription would not be filled.  I could see myself standing there faced with the option of explaining to the pharmacist that I wasn’t taking the pill for birth control but rather for fibroid tumor growth control and hoping that disclosure of my medical history satisfied her or his moral standards.  Or I would have to ask that same pharmacist to send my prescription to another pharmacy, even though this latest version of pharmacy denial legislation would protect the pharmacist should she or he refuse to do that.  I would be stuck there unable to get the medicine my doctor prescribed and unprotected as a consumer because the Missouri legislature decided it was more important to protect a pharmacist who has a problem with birth control pills than the consumers and patients who need medication.

That’s the scenario Missourians face should pharmacy denial legislation move forward.  As a reproductive justice advocate, I know that this legislation is about denying women access to emergency contraception.  The implications could deny women in Missouri access to birth control.  But this vaguely worded bill could touch anyone for any reason.  The only requirement would be a personal moral conflict and a pharmacist willing to discard the section of the Oath of a Pharmacist that states “I will respect and protect all personal and health information entrusted to me.”

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  • hobbes

    If you have moral objections to a job, you should not be doing that job.

    For example: I have moral objections to killing things. Therefore I have not applied to slaughterhouses or enlisted in the military. Why is this so difficult

  • purplemistydez

    So pharmacists will be able to refuse birth control and the like, which in turn will cause more abortions because the woman wasn’t able to get the medication in the first place.  Anti-choicers are you that stupid?

  • prochoiceferret

    So pharmacists will be able to refuse birth control and the like, which in turn will cause more abortions because the woman wasn’t able to get the medication in the first place.  Anti-choicers are you that stupid?


    I think we’ve found some of those mythical pro-aborts we keep hearing about!

  • offfwhite

    Donald Hermann wrote a great op-ed about dangerous trends in Conscience Clauses back in 2005 (Physicians and pharmacists receive a license that obligates them to provide appropriate care in the Chigago Sun-Times — I couldn’t find the whole text on-line without registration).  In it, he cites examples of abuse of such clauses, and warns about where the trend may lead…

    Consider a treating physician who refuses to provide antiviral therapy to an HIV- infected gay person because the physician’s religious beliefs hold that AIDS is punishment for homosexuality. Or consider the physician who refuses to provide pain medication to a terminal patient because the physician’s beliefs require the withholding of treatment that may hasten death.

    Bottom line, Conscience Clauses do not release anyone within the healthcare industry from the bioethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, justice and non-maleficence.

  • crowepps

    Conscience clauses has nothing to do with bioethical principles but instead with petty, spiteful tyrants asserting their power to impose their wills on and punish those who they devalue and despise.  Their claim that Christianity justifies their right to do so approaches blasphemy.

  • saltyc

    When it’s really just about controlling women’s reproductive rights? I’ve never heard of a bill protecting a pharmacist from dispensing ritalin if he doesn’t believe in medicating children, or viagara to unwed men or anything that isn’t directly about women’s privates.


    And how is a patient supposed to protect her rights? Can you call the pharmacy ahead of time to make sure the pharmacist at work will fill it before having your doctor send it there? No, it’s totally random. And women are suffering pregnancies due to pharmacuetical refusal already, so these tyrants as Crowepps apty calls them are getting to exert control over the lives of strangers and getting away with it.


    Who’s putting forth a patient protection bill? Prescriptions need to be filled, let the pharmacy pay for extra staff, that’ll end it I guarantee.

  • aligatorhardt

    Consider an airline pilot who decides that God will carry the aircraft on the wings of heaven if the occupants are worthy. We would not allow such a person to pilot the aircraft as his delusiional state is a danger to society. Consider the pharmacist who has delusional beleifs about which patients are worthy of medicine. The harm to the patient from withholding medication is far more important than some uncomfortable feeling on the part of some delusional pharmacist. Not to mention the pharmacist has no training or legal ability to prescribe medication, to do so would be impersonating a doctor, which is a crime. The pharmacist would also be neglecting his duty under the licensing agreements that allow him to practice his profession. If the pharmacist decises he cannot follow the requirements of his profession, it is up to him to remove himself from the position. If he does not remove himself and continues to fail to fullfill the licenscing agreements, the licenscing board is obligated to revoke his licensce. Anything less would be to endanger patients.

  • churchmouse

    This comment has been removed.


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  • churchmouse

    Did you say that you have moral objections against killing? LOL

    So what does abortion kill Hobbes?

    We have free speech in this country. We should not be forced to do something we do not want to do if it goes against our morals. There are enough pharmacists that will dispense the abortion pill. Do you think doctors should be forced to do abortions?




  • ahunt

    So you agree that a married woman has no obligation to engage in PIV sexual activity with her husband unless she is willing to get pregnant and have a child. Correct…Churchmouse?

  • arekushieru

    And what about the option for a man to keep HIS legs, together?  It’s not like he can’t say ‘no’.  Besides, what IS it with anti-choicers proving their misogyny and hypocrisy OVER AND OVER, again?  What IS it with them demanding that a woman be punished for intercourse, ejaculation, ovulation, fertilization AND implantation connecting two (I REPEAT) otherwise comPLETEly separate organs?  What IS it with them denying women the SAME sexual freedoms that men can enjoy without ANY fear of reprisal because there is NO action that is as equally determinable in men as pregnancy is in women, meaning there is no method to modify men’s behaviour the SAME way forced pregnancy would women’s behaviour.  Really, your apPALling and disGUSting view of women reminds me SO much of Satan as represented in the Bible.

  • arekushieru

    Do you think a Muslim or Jew, working in a restaurant, should be forced to serve meat they find offensive to touch?  If so, you just provided an EXcellent argument for making doctors and pharmacists DO THEIR JOB.

  • jrm83

    There are other reasons for women take the pill than for birth control.  Why should they be made to suffer because some self-righteous pharmacist is too stupid to realize that the pill doesn’t cause abortions?