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abstract

Emergency contraception — also known as the morning after pill — is marketed and sold, under various brand names, in over one hundred countries around the world. In some countries, customers can purchase the drug without a prescription. In others, a prescription must be presented to a licensed pharmacist. In virtually all of these countries, pharmacists are the last link in the chain of delivery. This article examines and ultimately rejects several standard moves in the bioethics literature on the right of pharmacists conscientiously to refuse to dispense emergency contraception. Its central thesis is that the standard ‘moderate’ solution to this problem is mistaken. Thus, when all publicly relevant interests are given their due, it is not acceptable to allow refusals in the big city, where pharmacies are plentiful, but forbid them in rural settings, where pharmacies are scarce. Rather, there should be strong public policy requiring that all pharmacists dispense emergency contraception to customers who request it, regardless of pharmacists' moral or religious objections.