By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

  ROME, October 31, 2007 ( – Pope Benedict’s remarks concerning pharmacists’ right to conscientious objection when asked to dispense drugs that induce abortion have provoked the ire of Italian politicians.

  Speaking at an international conference on Monday, the Pope told Catholic pharmacists they should be guaranteed the right to conscientious objection in cases where medicines they distribute can block pregnancy, cause abortion or assist euthanasia.

  While token concession was given that the Pope has the right to express his viewpoint, Italian Health Minister Livia Turco said the Pope could not tell professionals such as pharmacists what to do. “I don’t think his warning to pharmacists to be conscientious objectors to the morning after pill should be taken into consideration,” she told daily Corriere della Sera.

“The Pope’s appeal to pharmacists to refuse to sell the morning after pill is a very heavy interference in politics and Italian life,” said Lidia Menapace, a senator of the Communist Refoundation party, in a report by Reuters.

  In interviews of Catholic pharmacists by Italian media, some said they were following the Church’s teaching and their beliefs, while others admitted they were left with no option but to supply the prescribed medicine.  Italian law requires pharmacists to fill valid prescriptions. “We can’t be conscientious objectors unless the law is changed,” said Franco Caprino, head of pharmacists’ professional group Federfarma.

  Reaction to the Pope’s message in other countries has followed similar lines with many professionals and organizations expressing their approval, while governments and “family planning” groups responded with hostility and anger.

  In the US, some states permit pharmacists to refuse to sell contraceptives due to religious conviction and moral beliefs. One pharmacist, quoted by Newsday, praised the Pope’s comments. Lutful Chowdhury, who is a Muslim and the owner of a pharmacy in Baldwin, Long Island, said, “These are moral issues. This is for the betterment of mankind so I agree with the policy.”

  Michael J. DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS/Pharmacy, which has stores in Long Island and New York City, said in the same Newsday report: “Under federal law and some state laws, we must also accommodate a religious conviction that may prevent a pharmacist from dispensing a medication.”

  In Chile, where the government has passed legislation allowing girls as young as 14 to be given the morning-after pill without parental consent, the three major pharmacy chains have not been selling the pills, according to the BBC, citing the lack of locally available stocks. The government responded by fining the stores, importing supplies and then said the stores now had no excuse for not selling the pill, the report continued.

  A spokesman for one of the chains, in a statement quoted by Associated Press, said the government was violating freedom of opinion about the pill which he said was abortive. “We express conscientious objection to being forced to sell a product that can have that effect.”

  See recent LifeSiteNews Coverage:

  Pope Tells Pharmacists Not to Dispense Drugs to Inhibit Implantation; 
  Implications for Plan B at Catholic Hospitals