RealTime: Pharmacists in Wisconsin Get No Free Pass

Amie Newman

A Wisconsin court hands down a decision today that requires all pharmacists to act in a professionally competent manner in order to protect the public health, enhance patient autonomy, and promote women's equality, says the ACLU.

Despite the desperate attempts by a "pro-life" group in Wisconsin to falsely redefine all contraception as methods of abortion, a Wisconsin court's ruling today rose above the din.

The court today upheld the decision to discipline a pharmacist who refused to refill a prescription for birth control pills in 2002, based on the pharmacist's personal religious beliefs.

The ACLU said that "today's decision…strikes an important balance between religious liberty and women's health."

"We are pleased that the court recognized that individual pharmacists with religious objections cannot prevent women from obtaining contraception," said Sondra Goldschein, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Pharmacies should honor individual pharmacists' religious beliefs wherever possible; however, the patient's right to obtain legally prescribed medication should always come first."

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The pharmacist, Neil Noesen, did not only refuse to fill a customer's prescription for birth control pills but he also, according to a press release put out by the ACLU, interfered with the woman's efforts to fill her prescription at another pharmacy.

Laurence Dupuis, Legal Director of ACLU of Wisconsin put it simply, "There are ways to honor religious beliefs and a patient's rights; contrary to professional standards, Noesen made no effort in this case to ensure the patient's health care needs were met."

In other words, if Noesen had a problem filling prescriptions for birth control pills he not only should have made that clear to his employer off the bat but he also should have quickly transferred the prescription to a pharmacy where the woman could get it filled smoothly and with minor interruption (because, let's be clear, not filling the prescription in the first place is still an interruption).

Read more about the ACLU's position on religious refusals and reproductive rights at the pharmacy.

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