"Conscience Clause" Protects Arkansas Pharmacists Who Won't Dispense Plan B - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR -- Heather Flanigan Reports

"Conscience Clause" Protects Arkansas Pharmacists Who Won't Dispense Plan B

September 14, 2006 - Posted at 5:19 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- The FDA approved the "Morning After Pill" for over the counter sales earlier this year, but thanks to a state law, Arkansas pharmacists who oppose the drug morally don't have to hand it out....leaving women over the age of 18 out of luck and looking elsewhere.

It's called a 'conscience clause' and it protects pharmacists who choose not to dispense the emergency contraception.

"There is a moral dilemma that pharmacist face.  We are medical practitioners as well as our own personal beings and have our own moral conscience and every pharmacist will have their own decision making process on whether or not they will dispense this medication," said Pharmacist Ken Gibson, owner of Gibson's Pharmacy in Jonesboro.

It's estimated that pharmacists hand out about 1.5 million packets a year of the emergency contraceptive Plan-B.  But pharmacists in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota who won't dispense the morning after pill are now protected by state ‘conscience clauses.' 

Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine and Tennessee have more general ‘conscience clause' policies that likely would protect pharmacists.  Pharmacists have lost their jobs in Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin for their unwillingness to dispense emergency contraception.

"The employers want pharmacists to dispense every prescription possible, but if a pharmacist has a problem with that, a morale problem with that, the state of Arkansas and the three others that you've listed will protect his job with that company if he decides not to dispense the medication," said Gibson.

Plan B runs about $30 for two tablets, but Gibson says the most important thing for women to know is that they must take the first dosage within 72 hours of unprotected sex.  It's a clock that's ticking for women trying to find a pharmacist willing to hand out the drug.

"It is available, but it's not asked for commonly, but in cases of rape or incest I think that something like that might be very plausible reason for obtaining the medication," said Gibson.

Plan B can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 84%... but if a woman is already pregnant, it has no effect.  Plan B contains a concentrated dose of the same drug found in many regular birth-control pills. 

Women 18 and older and men purchasing for their partners may buy the Plan B pills without a doctor's note, but only from pharmacies.  Girls 17 and younger still need a prescription to buy the pills.

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