Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Faith-Based Pharmacy Opens in Virginia, Refuses To Dispense Contraception

Last week a Christian pharmacy in Virginia opened in Chantilly, becoming the 7th official pharmacy in the country that refuses to dispense contraception on religious grounds. The pharmacy, Divine Mercy Care is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, but the organization is guided by church teachings that prohibit contraception, including birth control pills, emergency contraception, and condoms. At the opening last week the pharmacy received a blessing from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. According to a recent Associated Press article, pharmacists in Virginia can turn away any prescription for any reason. Even though roughly 10 percent of pharmacy business is in contraceptives, the Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy is confident they can make up this loss of business with the patronage of the large Catholic population in the area. Pharmacy manager Robert Semler dismisses the threat to women’s access to birth control by saying that there are two pharmacies that do dispense contraception close by. Nevertheless, according to a National Partnership article “Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy does not display a sign stating that it does not dispense contraception.”

The opening of this pharmacy comes at a time when the country has been wrestling with the issue of health care providers refusing to provide reproductive health care services on religious grounds. In a recent Washington Times article Richard P. Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said the DMC Pharmacy should at least refer people to stores that dispense birth control. “Not doing so appears to violate any number of professional codes of ethics of the American Pharmacists Association," he said. "The central element is that the pharmacy must place the well-being of the patient over the pharmacist's personal well-being."

NARAL Pro-Choice VA has already called for a boycott of the pharmacy and collected over a thousand signatures protesting the pharmacy's policy. "If this emboldens other pharmacies in other parts of the state, it could really affect low-income and rural women in terms of access," said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice VA.

For more information on access to birth control in Maryland pharmacies visit our website

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