By Kathleen Gilbert

BATON ROUGE, LA, July 14, 2009 ( – Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal last week signed a bill expanding legal conscience protection beyond abortion to include dispensing the morning-after pill, participating in embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

House Bill 517, sponsored by Democratic State Rep. Bernard LeBas, includes a specific provision against forcing professionals to distribute “abortifacient drugs,” referring to the abortion-inducing “Plan B” or morning-after pill.  It does not extend to other forms of birth control. 

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU unsuccessfully lobbied against the measure.

Wisconsin pharmacy owners who object to providing the morning-after pill have met with a more hostile administration, however, as Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle earlier this month signed a law requiring pharmacies to stock the drug. 

The “duty to dispense” provision in the state budget was one of a number of birth control-promoting riders slipped into the bill after public hearings on the legislation had concluded.  While individual pharmacy workers are not required to dispense the drug, pharmacy owners are required to stock and dispense the pill and other contraceptives “without delay.” 

Pharmacies that fail to comply immediately with a customer's request for the drug are subject to a fine of $2500 per violation.

“You can't trample the Constitution on your way to a perceived public health end,” attorney Matt Sande of Pro-Life Wisconsin told  “And that's precisely what they're doing.”

“The pro-life medical profession has to stand up to these blatant attacks on their constitutional rights,” said Sande.  “Otherwise, it's just going to keep coming.”

Another budget bill rider mandates that all health insurance plans in Wisconsin that cover prescription drugs also include birth control.

See related coverage:

Wisconsin Judge Wants Punishment for Catholic Pharmacist 

Wisconsin Files Complaint Against Pharmacist For Refusing Abortifacient Prescription