HHS: Pro-life Pharmacists Must Dispense Abortion Drugs or Be Sued
The Biden administration put pro-life pharmacists on notice that they must dispense abortion-inducing drugs, and explain “how to take them,” or they could face charges of discrimination against “women or pregnant people.”
The Department of Health and Human Services sent a guidance on Wednesday to 60,000 pharmacies nationwide, warning their employees of stiff, legal “corrective action” against anyone who refuses to comply. The guidelines say, for instance, that if a pharmacist refuses to fill an order for mifepristone or misoprostol “because these medications can also be used to terminate a pregnancy — the pharmacy may be discriminating on the basis of sex.” It adds that pharmacies could open themselves up to legal action if they sell any kind of birth control, such as condoms, but refuse to dispense the morning-after pill or other forms of so-called “emergency contraception.”
The Biden administration directive implies that pro-life pharmacists may not be safe from government-instigated legal actions, even though federal law formally protects conscience rights. Although the document notes the same office implements the Church Amendments, which protect pro-life medical employees from having to take part in an abortion if it violates their “religious beliefs or moral convictions,” it says the law will be evaluated “on a case-by-case basis.”
That led a pro-life pharmacist-turned-congressman to lay down a gauntlet to the administration. “You can pass all the legislation you want. You can sign every executive order that you want to sign. But if you think you’re going to force a pharmacist to go against their moral obligation to take care of patients, to take care of babies, and dispense a prescription that’s going to be used for abortion: Good luck with that,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) vowed defiantly on the House floor.
Some states have moved to regulate abortion-inducing drugs in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling. But both HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland have asserted that states cannot ban any drug approved by the FDA. Carter said the Biden administration’s decision to expand the prevalence of chemical abortion “creates all kind of dilemmas, not the least of which it could put [pro-life pharmacists] in a situation where they have a choice between either violating federal law or violating state law.”
While the guidance notes that many of these drugs have alternative uses, to treat arthritis or ulcers, Carter says pro-life conscience rights pose no threat to genuine medicine, which seeks to heal rather than harm. Patients are “still going to be able to get their arthritis medication if it’s being used for arthritis,” he reassured Perkins. “But a pharmacist should have the right to deny filling a prescription if they know that it’s going to be used for an abortion and if they morally object to that.”
Democrats have cast about desperately for a way to circumvent state pro-life laws, which have proliferated since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade three weeks ago. Abortion activists have pushed the Biden administration to do everything from declaring a federal emergency to setting up abortion facilities on federal lands — steps Biden has thus far rejected. But with nearly two-thirds of Democrats saying they want a different candidate to run for president in 2024, Biden increasingly feels pressure to deliver. “The administration is now leaning very heavily on these chemical abortions,” said Perkins. “They want to expand that, and they want you to be their pusher.”
Expanding the availability of abortion-inducing drugs may put women at elevated risk from abusers. In numerous cases rapists or abusive husbands, boyfriends, or parents have forced women and girls to ingest the very drugs the Biden administration is now requiring pharmacists to dispense. “Many of these minors will never see a doctor or may not even see a pharmacist,” because the prescription is “going to be filled by their boyfriend or their handler,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
The HHS guidance, which takes its legal authority from a provision of Obamacare, contains other contradictions, as well. For example, it says the HHS “is committed to improving maternal health … and vigorous enforcement of our civil rights laws is one way in which we plan to do so.” While the United States has a somewhat higher maternal mortality rate, it has nothing to do with abortion. In Washington, D.C., which has among the nation’s most permissive abortion laws, the maternal mortality rate for black mothers is 50 points higher than the national average. “[A]ccess to abortion does not significantly decrease maternal mortality,” concluded Mary Szoch, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, in a recent report.
Although the guidance purportedly aims to combat sexism, it does nothing to address the fact that most people aborted are girls, often out of misogyny.
“This is ludicrous,” concluded Rep. Carter. “Pharmacists are not going to tolerate this.”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.