Conscientious Objection and the Morning-After Pill

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abstract

The so-called ‘morning-after pill’ is a drug that prevents pregnancy if taken no later than 72 hours after presumably fertile sexual intercourse. This article argues against a right of conscientious objection for pharmacists with regard to dispensing this drug. Some arguments that might be advanced in support of this right will be considered and rejected. Section 2 argues that from a philosophical point of view, the most relevant question is not whether the morning-after pill prevents implantation nor is it whether preventing implantation is tantamount to abortion. Section 3 suggests a more general philosophical question as most pertinent, namely whether and to what extent a pharmacist can justifiably be exempted from dispensing the morning-after pill when to do so would entail participating in something that goes against his or her deepest moral or religious convictions. Section 4 explains why, within liberal institutions, pharmacists should not have the right to conscientious objection to dispensing the morning-after pill.

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