Senate Committee Could Vote This Week on Prescription Access Measure
The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee as early as this week might vote on a bill (SB 644) that would require pharmacists who refuse to dispense medication -- including emergency contraception -- on ethical, moral or religious grounds to refer consumers to another pharmacy to fill the prescription, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The bill would apply only to pharmacies that carry EC. Pharmacies are not required to stock EC. According to a Planned Parenthood and NARAL survey, four of 243 pharmacies in the state refused to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B (Stern, Sacramento Bee, 4/17). In addition to pharmacists, the bill would apply to other licensed health care professionals (Bill text, 4/7). The bill also would "establish a protocol for pharmacists to establish alternatives for patients," the Bee reports.
The California Catholic Conference and the California Pharmacists Association support the measure.
Pharmacists for Life International spokesperson Mike Katsonis said that the bill is a better alternative than requiring pharmacists to dispense EC. However, he called the bill "wishy-washy," saying, "I really don't want to help someone do something that will take a human life, and now I have to recommend another practitioner to do that? This is really a bone of contention for those of us who are pro-life."
CCC Executive Director Edward Dolejsi in a letter to the Senate committee said that the bill "returns the First Amendment balance to the business of medicine and prescriptions. SB 644 allows all to act according to their consciences and within the limits of the law. "
NARAL state director Amy Everitt said, "Pharmacists have a duty to dispense prescription drugs, not morality."
Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said, "Unfortunately, the places where women are most likely to encounter problems are in rural areas, where there aren't as many options for a woman to fill a prescription" (Sacramento Bee, 4/17).