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Pharmacist conscience clauses and access to oral contraceptives
  1. D P Flynn
  1. Humanities Department, Salve Regina University, Newport, Rhode Island, USA
  1. Professor D P Flynn, Department of Public Health, 144 Farnham Avenue, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut 06515, USA; flynnd1{at}


The introduction of conscience clauses after the 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade allowed physicians and nurses to opt out of medical procedures, particularly abortions, to which they were morally opposed. In recent years pharmacists have requested the same consideration with regard to dispensing some medicines. This paper examines the pharmacists’ role and their professional and moral obligations to patients in the light of recent refusals by pharmacists to dispense oral contraceptives. A review of John Rawls’s concepts of the “original position” and the “veil of ignorance”, along with consideration of the concept of compartmentalisation, are used to assess pharmacists’ requests and the moral and legal rights of patients to have their prescriptive needs met.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.