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March 16, 2006

Standing Up for Plan B

In Washington, the PI editorial board stands up for Plan B.

"The Washington State Board of Pharmacy is considering a policy to outline if and when pharmacists could refuse to fill prescriptions due to their personal moral, religious or ethical objections. Here's our suggestion: never."

In Washington, DC, Washington's US Senator Patty Murray does too.

Posted by Alan Durning | Permalink


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I have mixed feelings about this. It is a "slippery slope" issue. With a hard stand of forcing people to do things they do not believe in, I could imagine myself being forced to do business with, say, a manufacturer of weapons -- which I would not do today out of ethical/moral objections.

Although I disagree with individual pharmacists who won't fill prescriptions for "morning after" pills, I defend their right to individually make such a stand. I envision the free market providing a cure, with a pharmacy opening up next door to compete. (What I would find abhorrent would be if a huge, market-dominating chain like Mall*Wart did the same thing for all its stores.)

What if they declared a war, and no one came? That might not be possible if we start saying people MUST perform jobs they find immoral.

Posted by: Jan Steinman | Mar 16, 2006 11:43:28 AM


I think you're confusing categories.

In addition to the rights and responsibilities we are entitled to by virtue of our humanity and citizenship, there are certain rights and responsibilities that we hold exclusively by virtue of the roles that we play.

Police officers may use force in ways that others may not. Pharmacists may dispense controlled substances.

Where our role-derived rights contravene others' more-fundamental rights (human and legal), the role-derived rights must give way.

Police officers may use force, but they may not violate the human and legal rights of citizens.

Pharmacists may dispense medicines, but they may not stand in judgment over others' right to control their fertility.

I agree that pharmacists have every (moral) right to oppose contraception. When they do so, however, they are crossing the line into civil disobedience. And, under the philosophy of civil disobedience, they must accept the consequences of their actions. They are not asking to be excused from a system they find immoral; they are trying to change it.

Posted by: Alan Durning | Mar 16, 2006 2:07:56 PM

Regardless, what does this have to do with the stated mission of this blog of monitoring Northwest environmental news?

Posted by: Matthew | Mar 16, 2006 2:33:18 PM

I think this is very pertinent. Decreasing unplanned pregnancies is an important step in sustainability.

As a nurse I wholeheartedly disagree with the 'slippery slope' theory. Pharmacists have a job to do. If they do not want to do their jobs they should find other jobs.

Posted by: Rachel | Mar 16, 2006 3:02:54 PM

What Rachel said.

Jan, the Hippocratic oath, not democratic theory or capitalist ideology binds medical folk. It's great that you are defending their free speech, but here you seem to be defending a non-existent 'right' to withhold medical care.

These no-fill-scrip-I don't-like decisions are against the oath these folk swore to uphold.

These folks can get out of the profession if they don't want to continue their duty to uphold their oath.

Then the "free" market can find them a cure for their bills and student loan payments.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Mar 16, 2006 5:29:15 PM


Thanks for your question.

The stated purpose of this blog is actually not "monitoring Northwest environmental news." It's "Northwest Environment Watch's take on the news that really matters."

In greater depth, on the About this Blog page, the purpose is stated thus:

"The Cascadia Scorecard Weblog is published by Northwest Environment Watch (NEW), a Seattle research and communication center that monitors progress toward sustainability in the Northwest. Every day, we post one or two items on "news that really matters" in the Pacific Northwest, especially those relating to the trends we track through our Cascadia Scorecard project."

Granted, the name of the organization includes the word Environment, but the blog is and has always been about sustainability. And sustainability is as much as about humans thriving as about nature thriving.

Unplanned pregnancies are a critical and overlooked variable in human quality of life. They are the root cause of virtually all abortion, and they lead to a variety of child-development deficits, parenting problems, and bad social outcomes.

Unintended pregnancies are also a big source of population growth, which is a big source of environmental problems.

So, ensuring easy, universal access to Plan B is about as central to this blog as, well, anything you might name.

That's why we write about it a lot.

Posted by: Alan Durning | Mar 16, 2006 5:56:26 PM

Here's another issue: pharmacists are not doctors, and are not licensed to practice medicine. They lack the training to make decisions on what the proper course of treatment for any ailment is to be.

True, they are trained to determine if there are interactions, and their experience can be helpful if the prescription is mistyped. However, they cannot overrule a doctor. They simply aren't medical providers, and if the patient had wanted a second opinion, she would have asked for it.

When pharmacists fail to fill a prescription in a way which fulfils the intention of the doctor and patient, they are attempting to practice medicine. And I hope that if the pharmacists decide to do that they are ready to be punished for practicing medicine without a license, and that Governor Gregoire is prepared to prosecute it.

Posted by: Brian A.Sayrs | Mar 19, 2006 6:40:40 PM