By John Jalsevac

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, February 18, 2008 ( – A bill recently introduced into the Missouri House of Representatives seeks to protect pharmacists from civil and criminal liability for refusing to dispense the morning after pill by stating that no pharmacists should be required to assist in an abortion.

What is especially unique about House Bill 1625, as compared to other conscience legislation that has been introduced in other states, is that the bill, if passed, would officially reclassify the morning after pill as an abortifacient.

The text of the bill, introduced by Representative Edgar Emery, states: “No licensed pharmacy in this state shall be required to perform, assist, recommend, refer to, or participate in any act or service in connection with any drug or device that is an abortifacient, including but not limited to the RU486 drug and emergency contraception such as the Plan B drug.”

At present the FDA does not classify the morning after pill as an abortifacient, but only as a contraceptive. However, the pill has been shown to have a number of mechanisms to prevent birth, including preventing the implantation of an already fertilized egg into the uterus, which action meets the definition of an abortion.  The manufacturer’s own information about the drug states that the pill “may inhibit implantation by altering the endometrium.”

Nevertheless, at the same time as admitting that the pill may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, Plan B also insists that the “emergency contraceptive” is not an abortifacient, a claim that thus far the FDA has gone along with.

HB 1625 comes on the heels of an opposing bill, HB 1720, introduced in January by Rep. Mike Talboy, that would require pharmacists to fill “valid and lawful prescriptions for all federal Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs or devices used to prevent pregnancy, including emergency contraceptives, without delay.”

HB 1720 states: “A pharmacy and its employees have a duty to treat each customer in a nonjudgmental manner and ensure that each customer is not subjected to indignity, humiliation, breaches of confidentiality, or pressure to fill or not to fill the prescription. The provisions of this subsection are fully applicable to over-the-counter emergency contraception sold to persons of legal age.”

Pamela Sumners, executive director of the Missouri affiliate of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said about the newest bill, “If you become a pharmacist, you should do your job.”

However, Rep. Emery stated that the bill “is an acknowledgement that in the litigant society in which we live, there’s always the threat that people who are doing things according to their conscience could be sued because someone else has a different sense of conscience.” Emery’s bill would ensure that no pharmacists would be subject to litigation on account of his conscience.

  See related coverage:

Plan B Manufacturer Admits Morning After Pill Can Cause Death of an Embryo

US Pharmacists Battle over Forced Dispensation of Abortion Drugs

FDA Sued Over Unlawful Approval of Morning-After Pill

FDA Approves Plan B Abortifacient for Over-the-Counter