Controversy over the morning-after pill
By Liz Lockhart
Debate is raging on several fronts over the morning-after pill. In the USA Medical News Today is warning that the Food and Drug Administration is warning the public that there is a fake morning-after pill on the market. The drug is called Evital and no such product has been approved to date. This means that it may not be safe or effective in preventing pregnancy.
Meanwhile, on the home front, there is concern that Christian chemists will be forced out of their jobs under the guidelines for the dispensing of the morning-after pill laid out by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
An article in the Telegraph warns that many pharmacists have conscientious moral objections to dispensing emergency contraception and have, in the past, refused to do so because the drugs work by preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.
Guidance was circulated last week by the GPhC which effectively strips them of their right to object on religious grounds to handling such drugs. At present many Christian, Jewish and Muslim pharmacists object to the drugs. Now pharmacists will be obliged to refer a customer to a specified chemist who is willing to distribute the pills and should also ring ahead to check that the product is in stock.
The new guidance also included recommendations to make drugs available for IVF. Objections have been made by religious groups on the grounds of the high numbers of embryos created then destroyed in the process.
Pharmacists have been told that their right to conscientious objection on religious grounds is secondary to the contractual demands of employers such as the NHS.
On the website www.christian.org.uk Anna Sweeting-Hempsall, a Catholic hospital pharmacist from Sunderland says that the new guidance ‘forces pharmacist to act against their consciences ‘and would cause legal conflicts between staff and employers’.
She said ‘Now the employers have the right to impose any contractual obligations that take precedence over the right of conscience. Anyone who values the sanctity of life from the moment of conception will be forced from the profession’.