Disputes rage over contraceptive

Women in Florida will continue to find difficulty filling prescriptions for oral contraceptives based on conscience clause laws that allow medical professionals to refuse distributing oral contraceptives because of moral or religious beliefs.

Since the late 1990s, pharmacists in Florida have been debating whether to dispense the “morning after pill.” One of the first cases in Florida came from the University of Florida when feminists learned that campus pharmacist Mike Katonis was refusing to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill while working at the campus dispensary. After much pressure from the feminists, the university asked Katonis to resign.

Cases have also been reported in over a dozen states.

“We have a duty and that duty is to dispense prescriptions unless it’s threatening to (the patient’s) health,” said Martha Ross, pharmacy manager at FAMU Student Health Services.

Although student health services must fill all authorized prescribed medicines, Ross thinks that refusal to distribute the morning-after pill is a personal decision.

“I really can’t speak for (other pharmacists) because I don’t know why they are objecting to it,” Ross said.

Pharmacy student, Tangela Towns, 23, from Tallahassee, thinks a patient has more than one option when filling his prescription.

“Most retail pharmacies have two pharmacists,” Towns said, noting that patients can have another pharmacist fill their prescriptions.

Christopher Finch, 33, a senior food science student from Washington, thinks pharmacists should have a choice when distributing oral contraceptives. “They should defer the prescription to another pharmacist,” Finch said.

According to a 2005 Washington Post article, retail pharmacy chains like CVS and Wal-Mart have instituted policies that consider both the pharmacist and patient. If a pharmacist decides not to fill a patient’s prescription based on personal beliefs, he is asked to inform a manager and the manager is obligated to make sure the patient has the option to fill the prescription through another means.

Finch said when big retailers like take stances on controversial issues like birth control, pharmacists should not have to go against their own beliefs.

“Wal-Mart should force their own corporate beliefs on their pharmacists,” Finch said.

Salina Allen, 22, a fifth-year pharmacy candidate from Fort Lauderdale, sees some danger in irresponsible distribution of the morning after pill.

She said pharmacists in support of Plan B refusals have an argument.

“Your choice (to fill the prescription) is going to cause a lot of females to not be careful. They will use less condoms and more STDs will be contracted,” Allen said.

Towns said oral contraceptives can be abused. “I feel if I have a patient who is abusing Plan B month after month after month, I’ll make the decision regarding filling their prescription as needed,” Towns said.

Allen also said it is a pharmacist’s duty to make sure the quality of life is better for the patient. This includes checking with the patient’s doctor to verify the dosage prescribed.

As a supporter for the patient’s right to choose and future pharmacist, Allen will leave the choice to her patients.

“It’s your job to do what you get paid to do,” Allen said. “You get paid to hand out prescriptions, not to put your beliefs off on someone else.”

Contact Farrah Hudson at famuanhealth@hotmail.com