The Department of Health and Human Services’s (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has informed pharmacies that receive federal financial assistance that they must fulfill abortion pill prescriptions or they will be in violation of federal civil rights laws.
HHS released guidelines referencing an Affordable Health Care Act law which states that not dispensing the abortion pill is equivalent to discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. In addition, HHS said that pharmacies can not refuse to fill prescriptions for medications that have the possible side effect of causing a miscarriage, such as methotrexate, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and ectopic pregnancies. They must also fill prescriptions for mifepristone — one of the two drugs used in the abortion pill — to treat a miscarriage. To deny any of these prescriptions would be considered sex discrimination, said HHS.
“Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 […], recipients of federal financial assistance are prohibited from discriminating in all programs and activities, on the basis of disability,” said HHS. “Pharmacies, therefore, may not discriminate against pharmacy customers on the bases prohibited by Section 1557 and Section 504 — including with regard to supplying medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of a prescribed medication for a patient; or advising patients about medications and how to take them.”
HHS also mentioned the Church Amendments, which protects health care personnel from discrimination from their employer if they refuse to commit or participate in an abortion due to their moral objections. However, HHS wrote, “This guidance does not address how the Church Amendments would apply in a given case. OCR will evaluate and apply the Church Amendments on a case-by-case basis.”
In 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Biden administration quietly dismissed a case it had filed under the Trump administration in which a nurse filed a complaint against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) for forcing her to participate in an abortion. HHS found that UVMMC was in violation of the Church Amendments, but the DOJ dropped the case anyway. This does not offer much hope to pro-life pharmacists that HHS will actually enforce the Church Amendments.
In addition, under the Affordable Care Act, pharmacists can object to dispensing the abortion pill based on religious or moral grounds. As reported by the Washington Examiner, CVS and Walgreens both allow their pharmacists to decline dispensing the abortion pill as long as they refer the patient to another pharmacist within the same pharmacy or a nearby pharmacy.
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations and these deaths have been rising in the last 20 years. HHS claims that the overturning of Roe v. Wade will make the maternal mortality rate worse in the U.S., however, based on data from other nations who have banned abortion, the maternal mortality rate could actually improve with less access to abortion.
Forcing pharmacists to dispense the abortion pill against their own conscience and religious beliefs is discrimination against a person’s religious and moral beliefs because it forces them to participate in the mass genocide of abortion in the U.S.
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