Project letter to the editor, Globe and Mail

(Not published)

Joy Thompson and Hazelle Palmer betray a fundamental misunderstanding of conscientious objection in their criticism of Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience (Don’t let drug stores become pulpits, Globe & Mail, 26 April 2000).

Pharmacists who have moral objections to dispensing the morning after pill usually assert that a new, unique and living human being begins to exist – and pregnancy begins – with the union of sperm and egg. This union they call conception or fertilization. These are hardly novel propositions in an era when fertilization is accomplished routinely in petri dishes, the resulting early embryos kept alive and matured pending implantation – or civil litigation.

The morning after pill prevents the union of sperm and egg only if it is taken in time to suppress ovulation. In other cases, it brings about the death of the early embryo by preventing implantation in the womb. This is the crux of the moral problem faced by pharmacists who hold that it is gravely wrong to deliberately cause the death of the developing human being at any point after conception.

Planned Parenthood and The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada think that the morning after pill is a good thing. They call it ‘emergency contraception’, they claim that it does not cause abortions, and they ridicule those who disagree. “Out of step with medical community”, “professionally irresponsible, or blatantly uninformed”, and “inventing a controversy” are the accusations hurled from the Planned Parenthood pulpit at conscientious objectors.

The controversy being invented here arises from a difference in terminology. Thompson and Palmer et al define conception – and the beginning of pregnancy – as implantation of the early embryo in the womb, not as the union of sperm and egg. Thus, in their view, ‘contraception’ includes not only drugs or devices that prevent conception (fertilization), but anything that prevents implantation of the early embryo. That is why they describe the morning after pill as a ‘contraceptive’, regardless of its mechanism, and insist that it does not interfere with pregnancy. In their lexicon, the existence of the early embryo following fertilization does not count as pregnancy unless implantation occurs, and the destruction of the embryo prior to implantation is not abortion. The public can hardly be expected to make sense of the present dispute unless these points are clarified.

Out of step with medical community? The Canadian Medical Association advises physicians who have moral objections to abortion to explain this to their patients, and insists that there be no discrimination against physicians who refuse to perform or assist with abortions. Dr. John Williams, the CMA’s Director of Ethics, recently confirmed that doctors are not obliged to refer patients for abortions. “Respect for the right of personal decision in this area must be stressed,” states CMA policy. Is the respect given to doctors to be denied pharmacists and other health care professionals because powerful interests are able to shout them down?

Contrary to Thompson and Palmer’s assertions, conscientious objectors are not trying to prevent the introduction of abortifacient or contraceptive drugs, nor are they attempting to block access to them. These are impossible objectives for such a vulnerable minority with limited means. Instead, they simply ask that they not be hounded out of their professions because they will not do what they believe to be gravely wrong. Does The Best Country in the World have room for such people?

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

There Are No Secular Unbelievers

Centrepoints Spring, 2000

Iain T. Benson*

Mr. Benson draws attention to the erroneous notion that  “secular” means “faith-free”. He argues that this error is  transmitted through the culture and imposed by the courts, thus allowing the “implicit faith” of atheists and agnostics  to dominate and displace all others. “Why,” he asks, “should the opinions of those who don’t know or refuse to articulate what they believe dominate those who can say what they believe in and why they think it matters?” Full Text

Project letter to the Edmonton Sun

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
25 April, 2000

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project

Mindelle Jacobs cites Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, to the effect that conscientious objectors should be driven out of the medical profession if they are unwilling to provide “perfectly legal services” to patients who want the services but can’t go elsewhere to get them. According to Jacobs, Alberta Pharmaceutical Association registrar Greg Eberhart has similar views (Pharmacists want right of refusal, Edmonton Sun, 16 April, 2000).

Well, perhaps they wouldn’t drive them out of the profession. Perhaps they’d just drive them out of the province, or out of the country. Freedom of conscience, if you insist, but not in my back yard.

Now, Jacobs is surely convinced of the truth of the moral vision she shares with Schafer and Eberhart, and of its fundamental importance. After all, she wants to impose that morality by denying conscientious objectors employment, or firing them, or forcing them to go elsewhere to make a living. One wouldn’t do such things unless the morality to be imposed was at least superior to the morality being suppressed, and unless one was also convinced of the necessity of forcing it upon others.

Unfortunately, Jacobs does not explain why her morality is superior to that of pharmacists like Maria Bizecki and Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience. Instead, she indulges in a bit of speculative scare-mongering. If “Bizecki and her pals”have their way, she wonders, “Where will it stop?”

One might also ask where it will stop if conscientious objection is suppressed. A recent bulletin from the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia (Vol. 25, No. 2. Ethics in Practice: Moral Conflicts in Pharmacy Practice) suggests the answer. Driven by the primary ‘ethical criteria’ of legality and consumer demand, the CPBC would require pharmacists to dispense drugs not only for abortion, but for euthanasia, assisted suicide and execution by lethal injection. Canada Safeway, apparently taking its ethical direction from such missives, entered the millennium by asserting that it has the right to ensure employees with religious scruples “promptly serve its customers” and not direct them to competitors for euthanasia drugs and abortion pills (Pharmacy Policies and Procedures, Section IV, Pharmacy Operations, Chapter 4, 1/1/2000, Page No. 16).

Alberta M.L.A. Julius Yankowsky has put forward a bill seeking limited legal protection of conscience for health care workers. The bill does not take any position on the morality or desirability of abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia or other controversial medical procedures. It simply recognizes that such procedures are morally controversial. It permits discussion and reasoned argument, but not discrimination or coercion.

Sadly, the reaction of Mindelle Jacobs, Arthur Schafer and Greg Eberhart to Mr. Yankowsky’s modest proposal demonstrates the need for such legislation.

Conscience Protection Bill Applauded


April 12, 2000

Canadian Physicians for Life

Canadian Physicians for Life applauds efforts before the Alberta legislature to grant protection of conscience to health care professionals who support the sanctity of life.

Recent suggestions by several regulating bodies that morally troublesome issues need only be referred to a colleague are oblivious to the principled objections of pro-life physicians. Increasingly exotic reproductive technologies may eventually offend even the most laissez-faire physicians.

There may come a day where no physician feels free from coercion to violate his or her  conscience.

Bill 212 is an amendment that, if adopted in the Alberta Legislative Assembly, will establish the rules up front. Health care professionals can confidently provide life-affirming care while retaining the choice of conscientious objection.

For further information Canadian Physicians for Life Administration Ph. (604)794-3772 Fax (604)794-3960 Email:

Pharmacists for Life criticizes BC College of Pharmacists

News Release

Pharmacists for Life (Canada)

Pharmacists for Life International/Canada opposes the  controversial policy decision by the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services.

Mr. Michael Izzotti, Coordinator of PFLI/Canada, stated in an information bulletin today that “to supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility) flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession has engaged in for the last 15-20years”.

Mr. Izzotti further stated that “the push by the College of Pharmacists of BC to pressure the professionals that they regulate to supply the controversial products and services that the College suggests, represents a travesty in  health care”.  This is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic Oath which many noble and honorable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”,1 suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not  necessarily “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

In light of the above concerns, and considering that similar concerns are arising in Alberta,  PFLI/Canada extends it support to Alberta’s Bill 212 prepared by Julius Yankowsky, which would insure Human Rights protection regarding Freedom of     Conscience to all health care workers.  In addition, PFLI/Canada encourages federal     conscience legislation to be enacted.

Notes 1. Bulletin of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. Mar/Apr 2000, Vol. 25, No.2

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator PFLI/Canada Tel: (905)528-4828 Fax (905)528-5593 or Email-

Pharmacists for Life International (Canada) Information Bulletin April 12/00

Due to continuing discussions caused by a controversial policy decision by the College of  Pharmacists of British Columbia in which pharmacists in that province will be facing  increased pressure to be distributors of death-causing products and services, PFLI/Canada  felt it necessary to make these statements at this time. Pharmacists have traditionally been known, trusted and respected for being providers of life saving,     health-maintaining-and-restoring products and services, however, the College in B.C. is  now suggesting that pharmacists should be involved in the provision of products for ending the life of human beings as well.

The 1st week of May is the scheduled date for certain “trained” pharmacists to  be the providers of the abortifacient Morning After Pill with or without a prescription from a doctor. A recent BC College bulletin article, “Ethics in Practice”, suggests that pharmacists may have a conscientious or moral objection to future services that “might expand to include, preparation of drugs to assist voluntary or involuntary suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or even execution”. These products  & services and some others mentioned in that article in fact are not necessarily  “recognized” nor “legitimate” services to be expected from a pharmacy.

To supply death causing products and services from a pharmacy (a health care facility)  flies in the face of the promotion of appropriate practices the pharmaceutical profession  has engaged in for the last 15-20years.  These appropriate practices include: encouraging pharmacists to provide more cognitive services, (e.g. being a drug information resource for the community, resolving drug related problems, providing increased patient counselling etc); other practices include, emphasis to provide greater communication with the public and to promote proper pharmaceutical care for all human beings especially those most vulnerable and needing our unique knowledge and     skills. These vulnerable people should include, the child in utero, the elderly and     disabled people.

The push by the College of Pharmacists of BC for pharmacists to supply the controversial products and services, noted above, represents a travesty in health care. It is in direct contradiction to the Hippocratic oath which many noble and honourable medical practitioners have taken and are committed to follow.

The policy decision, named above, of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. should be     withdrawn because it causes a negative influence on organizations who sponsor provision of  pharmaceutical services from their outlets, and a damaging and unhealthy image to our honourable and dignified profession.

It would be much appreciated if these organizations would rather continue to encourage and exhort practitioners in our profession to be the providers of proper pharmaceutical health care services to the public as they have done in the past.

For further information, please call Michael Izzotti, Coordinator, PFLI/Canada, 905-528-4828

Calgary Bishop supports conscientious objectors

Cameron Maxwell of the Edmonton Sun reported that Calgary’s Roman Catholic Bishop, Frederick Henry, supports pharmacists who refuse to sell “morning after” pills for reasons of conscience, as well as nurses who do not wish to participate in abortion.

Bishop Henry spoke of the need for protection of conscience legislation for all health care professionals. He noted that it was unfair that physicians could refuse to be involved in abortions, while nurses, pharmacists and others were denied similar consideration. Henry had first-hand experience with the problems faced by conscientious objectors when he was Bishop of Thunder Bay (See Bishop protests on behalf of nurses (Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada)(1997) ). He cited the more recent case of nurses at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital to illustrate the need for legislation. (See Foothills Hospital Now Forces Nurses To Participate In Genetic Terminations ; Nurses At Foothills Hospital Rebel Over The Horrifying Results Of Late-Term ‘Genetic Terminations’) .


British Columbia pharmacists ‘must refer or dispense’

The Canadian Medical Association Journal announced that 500 pharmacists in British Columbia would be dispensing the ‘morning after pill’ without a prescription. A bulletin from the College of Pharmacists of B.C. (March-April 2000) stated that pharmacists with conscientious objections to dispensing the drug would be required to refer patients, or dispense the drug themselves if that was not possible. The bulletin also noted that future pharmacy services might expand to include drugs for suicide, cloning, genetic manipulation or execution.