Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to protect women’s access to contraception in response to recent reports that women seeking birth control or emergency contraception (EC) have been turned away by pharmacists. The legislation would require all pharmacies to fill all prescriptions or refer customers to someone who will, despite pharmacists’ so-called religious or ethical objections to the nature of the prescription, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Women in a dozen states have reportedly been turned away by pharmacists, and at times, even lectured.
The Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2005 does not require pharmacies to carry contraceptives, but it does require prescribed items to be reordered if they are out of stock, even if an individual pharmacist objects, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The bill requires any pharmacy that fills Medicare or Medicaid prescriptions to make sure all legal prescriptions are filled quickly, even if a pharmacist personally objects, reports Medical News Today. In introducing the legislation, Sen. Boxer, a longtime advocate for women’s access to contraceptives and reproductive health services, said, “When people go into their pharmacy with a valid prescription, they should have confidence that their prescription will be filled in a timely manner and they will not face any harassment. Contraceptives are legal and safe, and they help prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sen. Boxer’s legislation is similar to the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (ALPhA), proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) earlier this month. Four states currently allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that violate their personal beliefs while 22 other states are considering similar laws, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.