In the True North Strong and Free

Project Letter to the Calgary Herald

Sean Murphy*

Twelve years ago, an editorial in the Calgary Herald1 expressed hope that a bill proposed by MLA Julius Yankowsky2 would ensure that health care professionals would not be forced to participate in procedures or services to which they objected for reasons of conscience.

The editorial cited the example of coerced participation of nurses in late term abortions at Foothills Hospital3 and the case of Maria Bizecki, a pharmacist facing discipline for refusing to dispense the morning after pill.4 The bill, said the editorial, was “a common sense compromise” that would respect freedom of conscience without preventing access to abortion or drugs. Yankowsky’s bill did not pass, but a common sense compromise was eventually worked out between Ms. Bizecki and her employer, the Calgary Cooperative Association.5

While Ms. Bizecki’s case was grinding slowly forward, she and Professor Donald De Marco met the Herald editorial board. Danielle Smith, then a member of the board, was at the meeting. So was Herald columnist Naomi Lakritz, who, at one point, personally congratulated Ms. Bizecki for her stand.6

Danielle Smith, now leader of the Wildrose Party, appears to be advocating the kind of compromise supported by the Herald when it expressed support for freedom of conscience for health care professionals. Ms. Lakritz, however, seems to have changed her mind.

“The word ‘conscience,’” she writes, “is now being used to advocate doing the wrong thing” – like refusing to dispense the morning after pill. (“Conscience rights is another way of allowing discrimination.”Calgary Herald, 10 April, 2012)

Ms. Lakritz is not alone in this belief. She reports that Alison Redford, the Premier of the province, is actually frightened by suggestions that at least some people in Alberta might refuse to do what they believe to be wrong. We are told that Liberal and NDP leaders also oppose freedom of conscience, and that the Alberta Party leader condemns protection of conscience legislation as “an exercise in exclusion,” a point apparently overlooked by those who drafted Section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to Ms. Lakritz, the Premier believes that suppression of freedom of conscience demonstrates respect for diversity, that people are treated with “dignity and respect” when they are forced to do what they believe to be wrong, and that threatening conscientious objectors with dismissal makes people feel “safe and included.”

We are not told if the Premier and other leaders opposed to freedom of conscience insist that their candidates sacrifice their personal integrity in order to run for office. Nor does Ms. Lakritz tell us if employees at the Calgary Herald must do what they believe to be wrong as a condition of employment or promotion.

She does, however, claim that those who, for reasons of conscience, refuse to provide a legal drug or service act wrongly and dishonourably because they thus treat some people “as though they were much less equal to others.” This is like saying that refusing to sell tobacco is wrong because it treats smokers “as though they were much less equal” to non-smokers, or that refusing to facilitate prostitution is dishonourable because it denies equality to ‘sex trade workers.’ Even if one accepts such a peculiar notion of equality, however, equality is not the only principle relevant to the moral evaluation of an act. Moreover, the mere legality of a product or service imposes no duty to provide it or to affirm its moral acceptability. Ms. Lakritz made this clear when she excoriated Henry Morgentaler and abortion rights groups for suggesting that Catholic bishops should ask people to stop protesting abortions – a legal, tax-paid service.

“[The bishops] are not exactly known for indulging in moral relativism,” she observed.

“What this society needs is more people like them who take a firm stand on issues and do not apologize for refusing to be swayed by whatever current compromise passes for morality.”7

It is a pity that Ms. Lakritz no longer believes this: that she now holds that such people are “truly disgusting,” and that personal integrity and courage are grounds for dismissal in the true north strong and free.

O, Canada.

Notes

1.  “Editorial, The Calgary Herald, April 11, 2000. (Accessed 2012-04-11)

2. Bill 212, Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, 2000.

3. Ko, Marnie, “Personal Qualms Don’t Count: Foothills Hospital Now Forces Nurses To Participate In Genetic Terminations.” Alberta Report Newsmagazine, April 12, 1999

4. Mastromatteo, Mike, “Alberta Pharmacist Vindicated for Pro-Life Stand.” The BC Catholic, 3 November, 2003

5. Gerald D. Chipeur to the Calgary Co-operative Association Re: Maria Bizecki, 19 December, 2001

6. E-mails from Maria Bizecki to the Administrator, Protection of Conscience Project, 10 and April, 2012.

7.  Lakritz, Naomi, “Hypocrite Henry: Morgentaler exercises his own brand of violence.” Winnipeg Sun, 17 January, 1995 (Accessed 2012-04-13)

Alberta pharmacist vindicated for pro-Life stand

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Mike Mastromatteo

A Calgary pharmacist has reached an agreement with her employer and the Alberta College of Pharmacists that will allow her to refrain from providing customers with prescriptions designed to terminate unborn human life.

Maria Bizecki of the Co-op Pharmacy in Calgary became the subject of an internal review by the Alberta College of Pharmacists last year after she refused to dispense the so-called “morning-after” pill and other products to which she is morally opposed.[Full text]

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

The professional group Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience supports and applauds the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association’s courageous inclusion of a model statement in their Standards of Practice, which does not require pharmacists with conscientious objections to refer patients. Patient access to legally prescribed therapy would continue to be available without compromising the health professionals’ right of conscientious refusal.

Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson for Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience, says “Pharmacists  in Manitoba can now exercise their freedom of conscience rights without fear for their noble livelihood. Pharmacists are presently objecting to participate as agents of death, not attempting to block access or give moral pep talks at the pharmacy counter.”

Bizecki futher added that as the Canadian Medical Association does not require doctors to participate in or refer for abortions, all pharmacists must also be protected     nationally by their associations. “By pushing their morality on health care workers, the public violates a pharmacist’s autonomy, integrity and basic human rights in  a country that protects its minorities.”

For further information: Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson Tel: (403) 228-2190  Fax:(403) 228-2249

 

Letter to the editor, Globe and Mail

Reproduced with permission

Re: April 27, 2000: Don’t let drugstores become pulpits

An “inability to distinguish between emergency contraception and the abortion pill”, and “irresponsible and blatantly uninformed” actually describes Planned Parenthood, not educated pharmacists. Planned Parenthood eagerly wants women to ingest dangerous hormones, which in the case of the morning after pill, fails at least 25% of the time. Planned Parenthood, not pharmacists, makes the choice for women by withholding facts and “spreading misinformation” in the name of sexual freedom.

Let every woman exercise her right to make an informed decision: the scientific literature is clear and abundant that the morning after pill (post-coital interception) acts primarily to prevent implantation, not ovulation. Therefore, to call it a contraceptive is false and misleading. To argue that pregnancy is not already established is a minority viewpoint ignoring virtually all embryology, biology and genetics texts.

Dr. Albert Yuzpe invented the morning after pill, yet does not mention ovulation prevention in his Contemporary Obstetrics and Gynecology article in 1994. He does mention, however, structural changes in the endometrium might “represent a hostile or non-receptive site for implantation”.

Futhermore, Jennifer Kessell, spokewoman for the company making Preven, confirmed that “more often it would prevent implantation” (The Report, Dec 6, 1999).

Pharmacists are objecting to participate, not attempting to block patient access to products. Doctors cannot be forced to perform procedures that violate their consciences, why should pharmacists? By pushing their morality on health care workers, the public violates a pharmacist’s autonomy, integrity, and basic human rights in a country that protects its minorities

Maria Bizecki
Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

 

 

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.

Concerned Pharmacists cite lack of consultation in Alberta

News Release

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience

In a controversial policy change, announced this week the College of Pharmacists of B.C. decided to allow pharmacists to hand out the morning after pill, Preven, over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.  In response, Greg Eberhart, registrar of the     Alberta Pharmaceutical Association (APhA) has stated that “The APhA hopes to follow  B.C.’s push…”

“There has been no dialogue between the membership of the APhA and its executive, as to how pharmacists stand on this position,” says Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson for  the group Concerned Phamacists for Conscience (CPC).  Ms. Bizecki further states the  APhA executive finds itself under increased pressure from the Society of Obstetricians and  Gynecologists of  Canada (SOGC), to dispense this product over the counter.

In 1995, the issue of a “conscience clause” came before the  APhA  membership and was passed, but, after consideration, dismissed by the APhA’s self-appointed Regulatory Affairs Committee.   “Forcing pharmacists to dispense or refer patients requesting Preven, an abortion causing drug developed to primarily act during Implantation of an embryo, is an insult to the autonomy of the pharmacist, the profession of pharmacy, and a health risk to women” adds  Ms.Bizecki.

Concerned Pharmacists for Conscience (CPC) is opposed to pharmacists dispensing     medications that violate their conscience on moral, medical ethical, or religious grounds.

For further information: Ms. Maria Bizecki, spokesperson Tel: (403) 228-2190  Fax:(403) 228-2249