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Accessories by force

"Accessories by force" Continued...

Issue: "Crackdown," July 18, 2009

Considered by some a soft target, pharmacists could be risking their jobs if they refuse to dispense a prescription they suspect could be used for suicide, or if they refuse to dispense Plan B, commonly called the "morning-after" pill, an abortifacient now given without prescription to women 17 or older. In 2005, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich-he has since been thrust from office because of corruption-paid off his pro-abortion backers by issuing an executive order that required pharmacies to dispense all prescriptions "without delay." This rule contradicted an existing law that protected conscience in all health care settings.

The responses indicated what may happen nationwide. Some pharmacists and pharmacy owners like Luke Vander Bleek, could not, in good conscience, obey the governor's order, which would essentially require him to dispense Plan B. In front of the U.S. House of Representatives, Vander Bleek stated, "I will not practice in an environment, [in] which we are legally obligated to be involved in the destruction of human life." Vander Bleek and fellow pharmacist Glenn Kosirog sued the state, and in April Sangamon Circuit Judge John Belz issued a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the executive order against the two pharmacists while the case is pending.

Other pharmacies, in an attempt to tiptoe around the issue, refused to stock the time-sensitive Plan B, hoping women would find it at another pharmacy. Retired pharmacist Lynn Parr, after a hand slapping from his manager for telling a customer that for religious reasons he would not dispense Prevenz, an "emergency contraceptive," was told to "stay quiet and try not to order it" or risk being fired. From then on, his manager told him to tell people they did not stock Plan B but could order it, knowing full well that women would have to find the drug elsewhere, since it is time sensitive and must be completely taken within 72 hours of intercourse.

Sandy Christiansen of the pro-life resource network CareNet remembers the time that she, as chief of obstetrical services, refused to participate in a patient's late-term abortion and suffered a public reproach from the attending physician: "She accused me of abandoning my patient, of shirking my responsibilities, and being insensitive to my patient. Not once did she acknowledge that I had a legitimate reason to take such a stand." Christiansen recently taught at the University of Maryland and found medical students with life-affirming values not sure whether they could complete the program.

If Obama does rescind the Bush ­regulations-a decision is expected soon-the face of health care will have new wrinkles. "Health care institutions with federal funding will believe they are not legally obligated to respect the conscience of health care staff, with the result being that pro-life doctors and pharmacists will be driven out of their professions," predicted Steve Aden of the Alliance Defense Fund. "Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups will spare no money in hounding pro-life doctors and pharmacists, who will then have to kowtow or go out of business."

David Christensen of the Family Research Council reports that some doctors, anticipating Obama pressure, are dropping Medicaid patients so that they will not be forced to violate conscience in order to receive federal funds. For physicians like MacArthur Hill, this would mean a loss of 40 percent of his patients and the end of his practice.

John Brehany of the Catholic Medical Association says it is "highly unlikely" that Catholic hospitals under the Obama administration will be forced to do abortions, but foresees pressure on them to add abortion, sterilization, and contraceptives to their medical offerings in order to continue receiving federal funding. Catholic hospitals make up 17 percent of U.S. health care institutions, but Brehany notes that "with increased federal control over health care, the ability to be independent is going to be compromised."

Physicians concerned about abetting suicide also oppose the Obama plans. Family medicine professor William Toffler, who is executive director of the Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation, argued in a recent Los Angeles Times article on assisted suicide that opponents of the Bush regulation "want to force doctors to act against their conscience and to become essentially vending machines for individuals who requisition overdoses to kill themselves."

But pressure from pro-abortion groups seems likely to override such concerns: Planned Parenthood states on its website, "While we firmly believe that all people have a right to their own opinions and moral beliefs, it is unethical for health care providers to stand in the way of a woman's access to safe, legal, and professional health care." Question: Should pro-life obstetricians be able to practice, and should the majority of Americans who declare themselves pro-life (51 percent in a May Gallup Poll) have access to a doctor who shares their views? (Eighty-eight percent of Americans feel it is important to have a doctor with similar views, according to a recent survey by the Polling Company.)

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