Pharmacists and Conscience Clauses

Sarah Johnson works as a pharmacist in a chain drug store in rural Washington state. She loves having the opportunity to help people deal with their health problems and enjoys her status as a competent, valued professional. Recently, though, her manager told her that she must stock and dispense Plan B, a drug that can be used after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy by either preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg or (much less often) preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Because federal regulations now allow Plan B to be sold without a prescription to anyone over age 17 but require pharmacists to keep it behind the counter, as the store’s pharmacist she would have to physically hand the drug to any customers who request it and would have full responsibility (unmediated by a doctor) to instruct them in using it.

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