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Wisc., Mont. face issues on contraceptive decisions by religious pharmacists


MADISON, Wisc., and HELENA, Mont. The Thomas More Society, a law firm that represents abortion opponents recently asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a disciplinary action brought against a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control because of his religious beliefs, according to published reports.

The pharmacist, Neil Noesen, refused to fill a birth control prescription for a University of Wisconsin-Stout student in July 2002. He also declined to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.

The woman filed a complaint with the state Department of Regulation and Licensing’s Pharmacy Examining Board. The board adopted the findings of an administrative law judge that Noesen be reprimanded and that limitations be placed on his license. He also was ordered to take an ethics course and required to pay $21,000 in costs.

The decision was upheld by a circuit judge and by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, although the appellate decision ordered a review of the order that Noesen pay costs.

In related news, the Montana Board of Pharmacy took no action this week after hearing comments on the issue of pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives because of religious beliefs. Montana currently has no rule or statute that requires pharmacies to stock every drug on the market, and “we decided to leave it at that,” board president Jim Cloud said.

Board member Mark Meredith said that a decision on whether new regulations are necessary should come from state lawmakers, not the six-member pharmacy board.

Stacey Anderson, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Montana, who requested the meeting with the board, urged it to establish a rule that protects women’s access to birth control. She asked board members to be proactive in addressing the issue to “prevent future personal refusals and to clearly define the standard of care expected of licensed pharmacies.”

After the meeting, Anderson said her organization will continue to look for ways to make its case through “administrative and legal avenues.” She added that she doesn’t agree that the issue should be decided by the state’s lawmakers.

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