When Two Fundamental Rights Collide at the Pharmacy: The Struggle to Balance the Consumer’s Right to Access Contraception and the Pharmacist’s Right of Conscience

12 Depaul J. Health Care L. 67, 89-91 (2009)

Suzanne Davis, Paul Lansing

Introduction:  The dangerous intersection between a pharmacist’s right of moral belief and a woman’s right of contraceptive use continues to be an important topic for debate across the nation. In fact, the area of contraceptive rights has been a controversial issue since the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, which recognized a constitutional right of privacy in family planning decisions implicit within the meaning of the Bill of Rights. Now, over forty years since this landmark decision, courts continue to grapple with the notion of women’s rights and how contraceptive use should be protected.

New developments in pharmaceutical research and technology have resulted in the formation of new legal and ethical issues. The most recent dilemma faced by both federal and state courts features women who desire a recently FDA approved contraceptive drug called Plan B and pharmacists who are morally opposed to the mode of action of the drug. This newfound ability to prevent birth using a drug taken after sexual activity presents a scenario the Griswold Court would have never anticipated. Nonetheless, the precedent beginning with Griswold has created a necessary collision between these two fundamental rights.

Pharmacists are placed in a unique position in this controversy. Pharmacists are licensed by the state yet some believe that they cannot comply with state requirements due to their individual religious beliefs. As nearly all Americans are familiar, the right to religious belief has been protected since the drafting of the Bill of …[Full Text]