Pharmacy board's new motto could be 'We Judge'
A bit of advice to the Washington State Board of Pharmacy: You don't want to reverse your 2007 decision and allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions — specifically, those for emergency contraception.
Seattle Times staff columnist
A bit of advice to the Washington State Board of Pharmacy: Don't even think about it.
You don't want to reverse your 2007 decision and allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions — specifically, those for emergency contraception.
But it seems the board just can't leave the issue alone. Last Thursday, it voted 3-2 to move forward with rule making that could allow pharmacists to turn people away.
And they're doing this despite input from the public that it's a bad idea.
Of the 5,359 comments the board received after announcing it would consider changing the dispensing rule, 4,448 supported leaving the existing rule in place.
(The current rules require that prescriptions be filled in time to be effective. Individual pharmacists may decline to dispense medicines but must have procedures in place to provide timely access to medications. In other words, there must be someone else there to dispense what they refuse to.)
Even Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state's secretary of health have weighed in.
"They have both expressed very clearly to the board that they want to see access to medications stay how it is and that the board should leave the rule as it is," said Tim Church, spokesman for the board and the Washington State Department of Health.
Despite this, Church said, three board members expressed concern about "whether specialty pharmacies are at a disadvantage because they would have to stock more drugs than they typically do" in order to meet the current ruling.
The board will decide at their December meeting how staff might create formal draft language to amend this problem. There will be another comment period on whatever they come up with.
If that's all they're doing, fine. But I'm still a little jumpy about women's access to emergency contraceptives.
Until 2007, the state allowed pharmacists to eschew their professional duties for their personal beliefs, and refuse to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception.
Women in rural areas or with disabilities were forced into a harrowing race against the clock, seeking out a pharmacist who would do his or her job and provide the contraception — and not stand in judgment.
"They are licensed health-care providers; they are a health-care safety net," said Jennifer Allen, Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Votes! Washington. "And they have a responsibility to carry that out."
And let's be clear, Allen said. The emergency contraception that some pharmacists take moral issue with isn't an "abortion pill."
She added: "Emergency contraception will not disrupt a pregnancy that has already begun."
Pharmacists who cite God's will over filling prescriptions might consider what prescriptions they fill without question or moral grandstanding.
Say ... Viagra. Aren't you messing with God's will when you use drugs to change a body's natural function?
If the board does overturn its previous ruling and turn away those seeking any drugs the pharmacists don't believe in, the pharmacists need to inform the public in an overt way.
I suggest something like the "We Card" signage related to tobacco sales.
How about "We Judge"?
Then those in crisis will know not to waste precious time and can head to another pharmacy for what they need.
So, too, will the rest of us who believe that a woman's body belongs to her, and a pharmacist's beliefs belong away from the counter.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.
Always use protection!
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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