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Congress to consider birth control bill

Proposal would ensure pharmacies fill prescriptions

From Lindy Royce
CNN Washington Bureau

Health Treatment
Family Planning

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Reports of pharmacists with particular religious and moral beliefs denying prescriptions for birth control have prompted legislation that would ensure all prescriptions are filled.

House and Senate backers unveiled a bill dubbed the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act (ALPhA) on Thursday.

It would allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription only if the prescription can be passed to and filled by a co-worker at the same pharmacy.

According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, a reproductive rights group, legislators in 10 states are considering bills that would permit pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. A federal law, if passed, would pre-empt any state law.

"What have we come to in this country?" Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat and House sponsor of the bill, said Thursday morning at a rally on Capitol Hill. "We are merely saying, 'let the laws in this country stand.' Let a woman be treated with dignity. When she has a prescription from her doctor, that privacy should be respected."

Yet some want additional legislation to protect pharmacists who believe certain birth control drugs are forms of abortion, Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, told the Reuters news agency. The group provides legal advice and support to pharmacists.

Brauer told Reuters she believes doctors will eventually begin ordering women to abort disabled children, or refuse to treat them after birth.

"They'll force women to kill their children ... It will be like China. It's the next logical step," she told Reuters.

The American Pharmacists Association favors letting pharmacists follow their conscience, but says customers should have alternative means of getting prescriptions, spokeswoman Susan Winckler told Reuters.

"Nobody has a right to come between any person and their doctor," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat and co-sponsor, said Thursday. "Today they might not fill prescriptions for birth control pills. Tomorrow it could be painkillers for a cancer patient. Next year it could be medicine that prolongs the life of a person with AIDS or some other terminal disease."

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