Religious beliefs, dispensing medicine debated in Nevada
April 5, 2003
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Assembly voted 26-16 Friday for a bill saying pharmacists must fill prescriptions — after rejecting an amendment allowing refusals based on religious or moral beliefs.
Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, sought the amendment, but Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, said it would have taken away the purpose of the bill.
“The point of the entire bill is, if there’s a prescription and the pharmacist has the drug, they have to fill it,” Goldwater said.
Proponents said AB144 would stop Catholics, Mormons and other pharmacists with religious objections from refusing to fill prescriptions for any drug, including contraceptives and “morning after” pills.
As originally written, AB144 would have prohibited employers of pharmacists from disciplining pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for religious reasons.
But an amendment to force pharmacists to fill all prescriptions was sought by Planned Parenthood and adopted Thursday.
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Patricia Elzy, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood in Reno, said her organization was contacted by a woman whose pharmacist in Carson City refused to fill her birth control prescription.
Elzy said she knows of no other cases in Nevada in which pharmacists refused to fill prescriptions, though there is no mechanism for tracking such information. Elzy worked on the amendment with Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas.
“All legal prescriptions should be dispensed,” Elzy said. “It should not be up to a pharmacist to override a physician’s decision. A pharmacist should not decide reproductive health decisions of a patient.”
During debate on Planned Parenthood’s amendment, Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said prescriptions are authorized by physicians, and pharmacists should not be given an opportunity to question their decisions.
“I realize pharmacists may have religious or moral concerns, but the physician is making the decision in the case as to whether a drug should be taken,” Hettrick said.