No Conscientious Objection for Pharmacists Selling Abortion Pill

Country: France

Date of incident: January 10, 2012

French pharmacists are required by law to sell the „morning after pill“ which causes an early abortion. The absence of conscientious objection is a violation of freedom of religion and conscience.

The pill to terminate intrauterine pregnancies known as RU-486 has been available in France since May 1988. The French government has given the drug a non-prescription status under civl law, making it available on request from pharmacists who are required to have it in stock. The cost of the drug is 65% reimbursed under national health insurance, and available for free from family planning clinics. In December 2000, the French Assembly passed a law allowing public and parochial high school nurses to provide emergency contraception. In January 2002, French officials issued a decree allowing minors to obtain emergency contraceptives from a pharmacy at no cost and without parent's consent. Pharmacists are required to counsel young women and provide them with information about other forms of birth control. Since 1999, over 1.5 million such pills have been sold in France, 97% without a prescription. As of 2006, abortion using RU-486 was 46% of the total amount of abortions. Catholic French pharmacists have tried to challenge the regulation under Article 9 of  the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of conscience and religion) with no success. The European Court of Human Rights in its ruling of October 2, 2001 described the refusal to sell RU-486 as "illegal" because Article 9 does not always guarantee the right to act according to personal convictions in public, adding that if the sale of a product is legal, pharmacists should not impose their beliefs to refuse the sale of the product. The Direction Générale de la Santé (Health General Department) rejected the claim of conscientious objection based on the fact that pharmacists do not deliver the drug "directly" to the patient, but it is the patient who actually takes it at home in exercise of her free will. The Catholic Association of French Pharmacist has underlined the right to work respecting life and the human person as stated in Article R4235-2 of the French Code of Public Health, and requested the amendment of Article L. 2212-8 to include pharmacist among health professionals entitled to claim conscientious objection. This request is also supported by the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) on its October 7, 2010 resolution which rejected Christine McCafferty's proposal to reduce conscientious objection. PACE understands the fundamental principle to defend and promote the right of medical personnel to conscientious objection. The new resolution now says that "no hospital, institution or person can under pressure be responsible or suffer discrimination of any kind for refusing to perform, allow or assist an abortion, miscarriage caused or euthanasia, or to submit to, or for refusing to perform any action to cause the death of a fetus or an embryo, whatever be the reasons." This resolution applies to both individuals and institutions, hospitals and clinics, public and private. It also protects medical personnel objectors against the pressures and discrimination that can be exercised against them. The European Parliament has also established a a new clause (Article L. 2151-7-1) on bioethics that states "no scientist, no engineer, technician or research assistant of any kind, no medial doctor or auxiliary is required to participate in any capacity whatsoever to research on human embryos or embryonic cells. " Therefore, pharmacists should be allowed to claim the same rights granted to other health professionals. Sources: