Project letter to the editor, The Province

There is a whiff of arrogance, as well as intolerance, in the BC College of Pharmacists threat to discipline conscientious objectors (Pharmacists’ college warns renegades about not dispensing morning-after pill, The Province, 23 November, 2000).

While the moral convictions of conscientious objectors are trivialized by describing them as ‘personal’ or ‘private’, many of those convictions are, in fact, shared by millions in religious, philosophical and moral traditions that have existed for millennia. If such convictions are ‘private’, those of the College are not less so, even if dressed up as ‘the ethics of the profession’. Yet the College refuses to explain – or cannot explain – why its newly-minted code of ethics (1997) is morally superior to the moral or ethical systems that it threatens to suppress.

Moreover, it is unclear why the College demands blind faith in the dogmatic judgement of its Ethics Advisory Committee. Among other things, the College has no policy governing qualifications, selection and appointment of ethics committee members, nor does it appear that any of the current committee members have formal qualifications in ethics or related fields.

Finally, the College has not demonstrated that, with respect to a dissenting minority, it is necessary to pursue a policy of institutional aggression rather than accommodation.

Sean Murphy, Administrator
Protection of Conscience Project


Pharmacists threatened with discipline

The deputy registrar of the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia has warned that pharmacists who refuse to dispense the ‘morning after pill’ for reasons of conscience are in breach of the College’s code of ethics. She invited anyone refused the pill to report the dissenting pharmacist to the College, presumably with a view to prosecution for a breach of what the deputy registrar called “pharmacy legislation” (The Province). The Project Administrator responded to the article with a letter to the editor.


Italian pharmacists called upon to exercise conscientious objection

Pharmacists in Italy have been called upon by the Catholic church to be conscientious objectors against the ‘morning after pill’, since it sometimes acts as an abortifacient. The president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference suggested that pharmacists should be allowed to claim conscientious objector status, a protection afforded to doctors and nurses who do not wish to participate in abortion. Governors of northern Lombardy (around Milan) and Latium (around Rome) have affirmed that the rights of pharmacists to conscientious objection would be respected, despite the government’s position that pharmacists would be breaking the law if they refused to supply the drug.


Government declines to rule out prosecution of conscientious objectors

News Release

Protection of Conscience Project

A spokesperson for the British Columbia Ministry of Health has declined to provide assurance that health care workers who object to abortion will not be prosecuted under the Access to Abortion Services Act.

The Act could be used to prosecute health care workers in “bubble zones” who decline to participate in abortion, or express disapproval of abortion in meetings or private conversations. It could also be used against clergy or counsellors providing pastoral care in “bubble zones” who provide information about abortion, or express disapproval of abortion.

The potential for conflict was first brought to the attention of the Minister of Health in 1995. It was raised again in correspondence this year with the Okanagan Similkameen Health Region and the Minister of Heath, as a result of discussion about the imposition of  a “bubble zone” at Kelowna General Hospital.

The Minister of Health refused to provide written assurance that the Act would not be applied against conscientious objectors, and refused to amend the Act. The Okanagan  Similkameen Health Region declined to consider the question, since a “bubble zone” had not been imposed on the Kelowna General Hospital.

A report on the subject is available on the Protection of Conscience Project website (Report 2000-01)