Caroline Farrow: If you object to abortion, forget a career in pharmacy

If you object to abortion on ethical or religious grounds it looks as though you will be disbarred from becoming a pharmacist if the General Pharmaceutical Council has its way.

It has just launched a public consultation on how to interpret its new rules which stipulate that pharmacy professionals must provide ‘person-centred care’. Up until now, if pharmacists object to providing certain medication thanks to personal or religious beliefs, they have been able to refuse and refer the request to a colleague.

Under the proposed new rules, pharmacy professionals will have to “take responsibility for ensuring that person-centred care is not compromised because of personal values and belief”, in what the General Pharmaceutical Council calls  ‘a significant change’. The’ balance will now shift in favour of the needs and rights of the person seeking care’ and those who refuse to comply will face criminal sanctions.

What this translates to in practice is that if you refuse to provide someone with the morning-after pill, as is currently your right, then they can claim that they feel ‘judged’, that their care is compromised and either you or more likely the business that employs you will face criminal sanctions and could well lose its licence.

This will mean that at interview every single employer will now be forced to ask the potential candidate whether or not they have religious objections to providing the morning-after pill and anyone who fesses up will not be employed. Or those who are currently employed and have objections will face the sack.

While the principle is supposed to apply in theory to all types of medications and advice, in practice it is only the morning-after pill to which pharmacists currently object, because it is an abortifacient and therefore interpreted under the provisions of the 1967 Abortion Act, which allows medical professionals to opt out of being involved with abortion, on conscience grounds.

In case anyone is in any doubt, one of the ways that  the morning-after pill works is by preventing the fertilised egg from being able to implant into the womb. If you agree with the scientific consensus that human life begins at conception, a fact which is confirmed by every single embryology text book, then it is easy to see how the morning-after pill is problematic. If a Roman Catholic were to sell it to a client then they could be said to be complicit in the provision of abortion, something which confers automatic excommunication. Catholics are not alone in objecting to abortion - many Evangelical Christians, Muslims and Orthodox Jews have similar beliefs, as do those of other faiths and none.

It’s not as if the morning-after pill is particularly difficult to get hold of in any event. Rather than go to the pharmacy, a much cheaper option is to go to your GP, a local drop-in clinic or family planning centre who will provide it for free. There are plenty of other avenues, including other local pharmacies and surgeries should your local pharmacist object on conscience grounds and not have a colleague available to dispense the pill.

What this about is a gradual erosion of conscience rights, in favour of a patient who cannot bear to feel ‘judged’ by being reminded that people have ethical concerns about an abortifacient medication. How long before abortion rights groups lobby for the conscience rights of doctors who refuse to prescribe the morning-after or abortion pill to be removed, in order to be consistent with pharmacists? If medics are forced to provide clients with abortifacient medication then what’s to stop them from being forced to participate in abortion, which is the ultimate aim.

These guidelines are part of an incremental attempt to erode the conscience rights of medical professionals and make it impossible to object to abortion.

Whatever your views on the morning-after pill, this potential change is another worrying attack on freedom of religion and conscience. Nobody should be forced by the State into participating in an action that violates their deeply held belief or conscience, and neither should Christians or anyone else who objects to abortion, have a chosen occupation or career path suddenly closed off to them. The irony is that the Equalities Act, which is cited by the General Pharmaceutical Council to justify this change, explicitly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

Rather than stick with the current sensible compromise arrangements, it seems that some beliefs are more equal than others.

Caroline Farrow

  • mollysdad

    Last Sunday I sent my submission to the GPC. I went straight to the point and averred that the use of any contragestive (aka chemical contraceptive) is an attempted murder contrary to section 51 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

    A pharmacist not only may, but by law must, refuse to dispense any of these embryocidal substances.

    • Bob Marshall

      The law of the land seems to be a very fluid substance at present, subject to ‘interpretation’ at any level if you have the wherewithal to afford it. Does Gina Miller ring any bells?

    • Caroline Farrow

      That’s an important point – thanks for pointing it out Mollysdad.

      You are 100% correct that the morning-after pill is in fact a contragestive, as opposed to an abortifacient, and with hindsight I ought to have used this term, explaining the difference between the two.

      A contragestive is as morally repugnant as an abortifacient in that it’s aim is to prevent an embryo from developing, but as you note, the difference between the two is that an abortifacient works to abort an implemented embryo whereas a contragestive prevents the fertilised ovuum from implanting.

      I used the term abortifacient for ease of understanding and also, I think most people understand (correctly) the abortifacient intention of the morning-after pill, even if they don’t know the precise medical term. We ought to use the correct terminology, in order so as not to lay ourselves open to charges of misunderstanding the science or accusations of lies, but there is also an argument to be made about the over-clinicalisation of language which can obscure the nature of what is occurring. Hence we see abortion clinics refer to ‘termination of pregnancy’ and other medical euphemisms to de-humanise the unborn child.

      If pharmacists are no longer exempt from providing the morning-after pill then it won’t be long before GPs find their conscience rights similarly under threat, which will then include pressure on them to prescribe abortifacients to procure early-stage abortions.

      • mollysdad

        The case for preferring “embryocide” to “abortifacient” is that it takes off the table the irrelevant issue of implantation and when it begins and ends. The law which defines “murder” in the international law concerning crimes against humanity is according to the legislative intent of the Four Powers occupying Germany in 1945 and of the Allied Control Council, which the Nuremberg Military Tribunal correctly assessed in the case of United States v Greifelt & ors [1948].

        The definition of “murder” has neither a born alive rule, nor any other life-stage rule to determine that a human being must have lived past a certain point in time in order to be a victim of it.

        Any employer who asks a filtering question at interview is likely to be open to action before the Employment Tribunal, where the ICCA 2001 could be relied upon.

        • James Chilton

          Why is this clinical distinction important if the outcome is the same?

          • mollysdad

            As a student of more than one foreign language, I have an instinct for weighing the significance of every worrd I write. One’s choice of words can determine the destination of an argument.

  • Upon attaching itself to the womb of law, abortion triggers the production of a hormone called Tyranny. One of the tasks of this hormone is to destroy the relationship between authentic law and authentic medicine, for if ‘first do no harm’ cannot survive abortion laws, then neither can the concept of medicine itself.

    • Little Black Censored

      Can’t quite understand this. Are you saying abortion is not harm?

      • An abortion is a murder, defined in terms of the location of the victim, i.e. the womb. So: if we say an abortion IS a medical procedure, we have to say the concept of medicine does not revolve around the concept of health and doing no harm.

        Abortion ‘reinvents’ medicine, ushering out conscience, in effect turning doctors into mere service providers – up to and including the ‘right’ to demand that your GP plays a part in your own murder.

  • Little Black Censored

    Does this mean that the acceptance of freely available abortion is now an established “British value?”

  • Bik Byro

    “Nobody should be forced by the State into participating in an action that violates their deeply held belief”

    So if you are injured in a road accident and a bypassing fundamental Islamist thinks you are better off dead, the state shouldn’t force him into the action of dialing 999. OK.

    • Devonian_Prof

      It doesn’t. No-one has to dial 999.

      • Bik Byro

        Not quite – English Duty To Rescue law is complex, in some situations (eg road accident) then duty of care would apply, in others not. In continental Europe it is quite simply a criminal offence to not at least call the emergency number for someone who needs it – which I believe is the best system. I think most people would be prefer not to be left dying in a car while the other driver thinks “my religion says he’s better off dead”

        The point is not to go into the fine detail of global Duty to Rescue law but to illustrate once you start down the road of “I should be allowed to behave in society according to all my religious beliefs” you open up a rapidly opening wedge in which all minority religions could dive in to exploit to their own advantage.

        • Under-the-weather

          Whatever ones individual religious beliefs are, they can’t/shouldn’t be imposed on somebody else. I believe life isn’t possible before consciousness is, and its medically proven that it can take days before an egg implants, the pharmacist has no clue, so what.

          • Terry Mushroom

            Relgious beliefs can’t/shouldn’t be imposed on anyone else. However, your beliefs can be imposed on others. Perhaps you need to think this one through.

          • Under-the-weather

            No I don’t need to think anything through, because if for example I chose to have an abortion, that doesn’t imply that you agreed with my decision to have an abortion, or that in doing your job as required by your employer, that constitutes an agreement with abortion. You could for example argue that if you are against abortion on a life vs death principle, you shouldn’t be working as a pharmacist period, as all drugs have side effects which could lead to somebodies death, and by selling those drugs you are agreeing with right of the majority to decide on the outcome of taking a drug which can have other consequences. However by insisting that I can’t, you are imposing your beliefs on me.

          • Terry Mushroom

            “All drugs have side effects which could lead to somebodies death”


            “…I am being oppressed”

          • Dodgy Geezer

            …I believe life isn’t possible before consciousness is…

            Does that mean that you don’t think a tree is alive?

          • Under-the-weather

            No it means, I think trees have their own and a different form of consciousness, (all plants can and do react to their surroundings), but it’s been scientifically proven what ours is, and we’re not the same as trees.

  • Groan

    “current sensible compromise arrangements”. Which of course is the essence of this. The point being that the treatment is widely available and there are people who will deliver it. There is consequently no reason to force this. certainly the health professional has a duty to make clear the situation so the patient knows where they may go next. I certainly think there is no right to refuse without clarity. The Abortion Act does not give abortion on demand, however this is often assumed to be the case and there is a lot of evidence its safeguards are stretched. However the statute remains the same.
    Inevitably many laws operation rely upon the ethics of those putting them into effect, this means a strong ethical base to professions involved is important. “Patients” are not customers buying shirts and should rely on the professionals providing care to be honest about their ethics. In which case the customer knows as a patient they will not be abused by being sold (treated) stuff that may harm them. Of course they should also know a “second opinion” can be sought.
    Being Patient Centred or Person Centred is about human interaction and understanding not just “pays your money, makes your choice”.
    We appear to be in a phase wherein everything has to be easy and value free. When life simply isn’t like that, nor should it be.

  • Well said! The Equalities Act is not about real “equality” but simply a club that can be used by progressives to beat any ideological opponents into submission. Dame Casey recently published a report suggesting that all civil servants should be forced to take an “equalities oath”, which she takes to mean an oath pledging allegiance to progressive ideology on sexuality and gender. Forget religious pluralism, equalities legislation is simply state-enforced religious belief.

    • Under-the-weather

      Sajid Javid speech excerpt
      The oath could include phrases such as “tolerating the views of others even if you disagree with them”, as well as “believing in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from abuse … a belief in equality, democracy, and the democratic process” and “respect for the law, even if you think the law is an ass”.

      • It sounds absolutely lovely when couched in all those fluffy, positive sounding expressions! The Devil is however in the detail, specifically the definitions of religion, freedom, equality and abuse, and the hierarchy of status granted to each.

        I mentioned Dame Casey’s allusion to the oath, since she seems to define “equality” as ‘affirming and supporting viewpoints about sexuality and gender (or anything else) with which you may disagree’. This is a direct challenge to freedom of conscience and in itself shows that the aim of such an oath would not be to support different groups and religious beliefs living in harmony. Rather it would be another progressive club to marginalise and economically cripple any group that does not offer tribute to the gods of progressivism.

  • DrNo

    It’s not murder if women do it….only men are bad… It’s not murder if women do it….only men are bad…
    Keep repeating the mantra.
    Just don’t say it out loud (or you’ll hear how ridiculous it sounds)

  • Is there no move to countermand this change, as one can very easily argue against it WITHOUT being religious on the following bases: 1)- contravention of freedom of conscience, 2)- violation of the said Equalities Legislation, 3)- unnecessary, since the morning-after pill is already available from other venues, 4)- unjust treatment of employees.

    • Under-the-weather

      That’s an assumption everyone will have access to other venues the `morning after`. Not everyone lives in a town or city, not everyone drives a car, or can get hours off work at the drop of a hat.
      Expecting a health professional to offer impartial advise isn’t an unjust treatment of employees. Whatever people think about in their own ethics, it isn’t them who’s intending to abort, it’s a third party who’s entitled to their own decision, having been given the impartial advise from the pharmacist (which will be in their job description).

  • Under-the-weather

    “If you agree with the scientific consensus that human life begins at conception, a fact which is confirmed by every single embryology text book”
    The only thing that happens from the start is cell division, which isn’t the same thing as independent life. Scientific consensus among physicists support a different theory entirely as to what life actually is.