Pharmacist taken to court over refusal to sell ‘morning-after pill’ has conscience rights protected by German court

A pharmacist who was taken to court because he did not wish to sell the ‘morning-after pill’ has had his conscience rights upheld by a German court. 

Andreas K. owned and operated a pharmacy in Berlin which neither stocked nor sold the ‘morning-after pill’. 

However, not long before his retirement in 2018, Andreas was reported to the Berlin Pharmacists’ Chamber over his desire to not sell the pill.

The chamber, which has a compulsory membership for every pharmacist in the state, then proceeded to initiate legal proceedings against Andreas at the Administrative Court of Berlin. 

In an encouraging ruling, the German court upheld the pharmacists right to act in accordance with his conscience. 

According to ADF International, who provided legal support to Andreas’ lawyer, the German court stated that the pharmacist had not neglected his professional duty and had the right to conscientiously object in such a situation. 

Felix Böllmann, Legal Counsel for ADF International said: “This is an encouraging decision by the court. It is a clear statement that the pharmacist had the right to act in line with his conscience and did not neglect his professional duty in doing so. The right to freedom of conscience must include the right to act accordingly. A free society relies upon its citizens acting conscientiously.”

The Pharmacists’ Chamber has appealed the decision, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Germany. 

In 2015, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a pharmacy that was fined €3,000 for opting not to sell the ‘morning-after pill’ despite a legal requirement to do so. 

According to the Telegraph, the court drew a parallel between the morning-after pill and abortion. The court ruled in its sentence that in this case, legally obligating the vendor to sell the product clashed “with the concept advocated by [the pharmacist] regarding the right to life.”

Medics may leave over NI’s extreme abortion proposals, warns letter signed by over 100 healthcare professionals

Over 100 health professionals have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Julian Smith, expressing concern over the new abortion framework for Northern Ireland.

It comes after the Northern Ireland Office’s consultation on the proposed abortion framework for the province, which goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, closed last night.  

In July, MPs at Westminster voted to impose Europe’s most extreme abortion law on the country.

The introduction of the new abortion framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020. This will follow the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland, following the change in the law on October 22nd, where there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks.

During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited guidance from the Government recommending how abortion access should be provided during this period.

Now, 135 GPs, nurses, midwives, radiographers, pharmacists and medical students argue that the document is deeply flawed in how it deals with rights of conscience.

Conscientious protections are just one of our 18 shocking facts about the Government’s proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland!

The healthcare professionals have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, saying they can no longer remain silent on the issue.

In their letter, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, the medics say the Secretary of State must understand the concern felt by people in Northern Ireland, not only about the imposition of the new framework but also its “ham-fisted, overreaching and unwanted nature”.

The letter states: “Many healthcare professionals entered their profession because they desired to protect and uphold life… Consequently, many object to any involvement in abortion provision which by its very nature involves the ending of human life.”

The signatories note that although the abortion framework does not require conscientious objectors to participate in abortion procedures in a “hands-on” capacity, healthcare professionals may find it equally problematic to be asked to undertake ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks involved with abortion procedures. 

This mirrors current legislation in England and Wales, which doesn’t provide protection for medics who would choose not to participate in any tasks relating to an abortion procedure.  

“Performing such tasks may be key to an abortion taking place and could lead to the professional in question feeling they are complicit in something they believe to be deeply wrong,” they added.

“It may be the case that some excellent healthcare professionals, who have given their lives to helping patients, feel they have no choice but to leave the profession they love if they are mandated to act in a way which is contrary to their conscience.”

They added: “The Northern Ireland health system is under enormous strain at the current time.

“Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities are struggling to find and retain staff.

“If this measure goes ahead as proposed in the consultation document, an additional barrier will be put up for staff who for understandable reasons conscientiously object to abortion.

“Such a move is unnecessary.

“The consultation document provides no evidence whatsoever as to the numbers of healthcare professionals who it is believed will object to providing abortion services.

“We urge the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider the position they are putting forward.

“It is possible to provide abortion services to all those who are seeking such services while respecting in a fulsome manner the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals.

“The value of life, the need to celebrate and accommodate conscientious objection, and the protection of the integrity of our democracy is too precious for us to remain silent,” the healthcare workers added.

Pro-life doctors stand firm in Ireland – will not perform abortions in at least 3 hospitals

At least three hospitals in Ireland are not performing any abortions as doctors have conscientiously objected to be involved with the horrific procedure.

A number of doctors in the Republic of Ireland continue to recognise that in treating a pregnant woman they are in fact treating two patients – mother and baby – and refuse to be complicit in ending the lives of unborn children.

According to TheJournal.ie, a briefing document from May 2019 states that “conscientious objection is still a significant challenge in Letterkenny University Hospital”. Sligo University Hospital has also had a large number of doctors conscientiously objecting to perform abortions.

After a referendum in 2018, where Ireland voted to remove all legal protection for its own unborn citizens, doctors found themselves in a position of potentially being forced to perform abortions against their own conscience.

In relation to conscientious objections, the Department of Health said:

“It should be noted that the legislation provides that a medical practitioner, nurse or midwife shall not be obliged to carry out, or to participate in carrying out, a termination of pregnancy where he/she has a conscientious objection.”

However, robust conscientious objection protections are still not in place in Irish law.

The new abortion law requires the conscientious objector to “make such arrangements for the transfer of care of the pregnant woman”, meaning that they must send the woman to a doctor who will perform an abortion. In this way, the state forces doctors to participate in the processes of ending the life of one of their patients. 

Ireland remains the only country in the world to have removed the human rights of an entire segment of its people by popular vote.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK:

“It’s really encouraging that so many doctors in Ireland are refusing to perform abortions. They recognise that their professional duty towards the health of their patients extends to both mother and child.”

“Many doctors enter the profession to save lives, not to end them. In which case, it would be a very serious form of state oppression to fundamentally alter a profession in the manner that abortion does, and then punish doctors who refuse to be involved in it.”

“When the majority of doctors in Ireland began their career, there were strong protections in law for unborn children. It would be deeply unjust to force doctors to perform abortions now that those protections have been removed, because performing abortions was never part of their job description, is not healthcare and goes deeply against their conscience.”

Press Release: Right To Life Expresses Disappointment At Adoption of Conscience-Chilling New GPhC Standards

Right To Life (RTL) is expressing disappointment at today’s decision by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to adopt new professional standards that will undermine the freedom of conscience of pharmacists.

As RTL pointed out during the consultation period, this change will mean that pharmacists who ethically object to providing drugs that are abortifacient (cause a miscarriage) or are contragestive (prevent a conceived unborn child from implanting in her mother’s womb) will not be able to conscientiously object to being formally involved with that practice.

This choice by the GPhC ignores the public opposition to the proposed changes, which further narrow conscience protections for medical professionals just as the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2014 Doogan case did. Like that ruling, these new standards further emphasise the need for far better conscience protections to be established in law, so that fair and reasonable accommodation of those who practice medicine and reject the destruction of innocent human beings, can be established.

RTL Executive Officer Peter D. Williams said:

This is a small but significant backwards step for the conscience rights of medical professionals.

As Right To Life explained to the GPhC in our submission to their consultation, they had the choice to adopt similar standards to those of the General Medical Council (GMC), or indeed maintain the principles of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) statement on assisted suicide in 2013. Either would have allowed for no obligation to be made on any pharmacist to participate in any aspect of a procedure if he or she feels this is against their personal beliefs, whether by allowing them an ‘opt out’, whilst also requiring that they sensibly inform their employer and colleagues so as not to unduly disrupt the working environment or service of patients.

Instead, the GPhC have adopted a set of standards that betray those they are meant to serve and represent by showing no concern for the need to reasonably accommodate pharmacists with principled objections to contragestive or abortifacient drugs. This is an unnecessary and authoritarian move that I hope will be corrected, either by a reversal on the GPhC’s part, or more enlightened and liberal legislation securing the conscience rights of all those whose desire is to heal and not to harm”.

END