A Wisconsin bill that would compel all pharmacists to provide abortifacient contraceptive drugs in spite of their moral and professional objections was recently the subject of a public hearing in the state senate.
A public hearing was scheduled for Wednesday to discuss Senate Bill 232, called the “Birth Control Protection Act.” It would force all pharmacists, regardless of their beliefs, to dispense the morning-after pill and other FDA-approved abortifacient contraceptive drugs. The legislation would also redefine the statutory definition of abortion to exclude all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices.
Violators of the law would be subject to various penalties, including the revocation of their license.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin endorsed the bill in a statement praising the bill’s sponsors, Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson and State Representative Christine Snicki, both Democrats.
The statement said, “With the Republican controlled Assembly recklessly endangering women's health in its latest budget, this bill is more important than ever. This legislation recognizes that Wisconsinites strongly support better access to birth control, even though some in the state Assembly are clearly out of touch with these widely held beliefs.”
Several pro-life leaders have objected to the bill.
"This bill is not about access to birth control at all," said Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, which strongly opposes the bill. "Birth control is everywhere – even the morning-after pill is now accessible over the counter for those aged 18 and over. What this bill is really about is forcing pro-life pharmacists to cast aside any moral or medical qualms about birth control and do the bidding of the birth control industry."
"Excluding the morning-after pill and other abortion-causing birth control drugs from the legal definition of abortion does not change the fact that they can and do cause early chemical abortions," said Hamill. "Simply wishing something to be true does not make it so."
Some have argued that the law would contradict the right to free exercise of religion guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Wisconsin Constitution also protects conscientious objectors, saying "any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience" shall not be permitted.
"Respect for individual conscience rights is a bedrock American principle," said Matt Sande, Pro-Life Wisconsin's legislative director. "We don't force people to take up arms who conscientiously oppose war. Why then would we force pharmacists to participate in the killing of pre-born children? Whether or not legislators agree or disagree with specific moral objections, their sworn oaths to the state and federal constitutions command them to respect and protect them. They can't pick and choose which conscience rights to protect or reject."
Those objecting to dispensing abortifacient drugs are presently accommodated by their employers so that customers can access the drugs from other pharmacists on staff or from nearby pharmacies.
"Senate Bill 232 would completely abrogate any and all good-faith accommodations between pharmacists of conscience and their employers," argued Sande. "Pharmacists, like doctors and nurses, are valued members of the professional health care team who should not be forced to choose between their consciences and their livelihoods. No pharmacist should have to daily check his or her conscience at the door.”