Reproductive Health Technologies Project Survey Finds Pharmacists, Public Favor Widespread Access to Emergency Contraception, Oppose Restrictive 'Conscience Clause' Legislation

Feb 14, 2000, 00:00 ET from Reproductive Health Technologies Project

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- A recent survey conducted on behalf of
 the Reproductive Health Technologies Project by Peter D. Hart Research
 Associates, Inc. in New Jersey and Oregon found favorable attitudes toward
 widespread access to emergency contraception (EC) among voters and
 pharmacists.  Emergency contraception works to prevent pregnancy after
 unprotected sex, and is available by prescription in the United States.
     The survey of 506 voters and 103 pharmacists in New Jersey and 503 voters
 and 105 pharmacists in Oregon found that approximately six in ten voters
 (62% NJ, 64% OR), and the same proportion of pharmacists (63% NJ, 69% OR)
 favor emergency contraception being broadly accessible to all women.(1)
     The survey also examined participants' reactions to so-called "conscience
 clauses," legislation that grants individual pharmacists the right to refuse
 to dispense medications -- including EC -- which conflict with their moral or
 religious beliefs.
     "This study echoes what we in the reproductive health field have known for
 years," said Nancy Yanofsky, President, ProChoice Resource Center.  "The
 public wants access to important reproductive health options such as emergency
 contraception, and they do not want their access to these options restricted."
     Both pharmacists and the general public expressed strong opposition to
 so-called "conscience clauses."  Nearly half (48%) of New Jersey pharmacists
 and 54% of Oregon pharmacists feel that pharmacists should be allowed to
 refuse to fill a prescription on moral grounds only if the pharmacy where they
 work has established procedures for ensuring that patients are not denied
 access to these drugs as a result.  Voters are even more vehement than
 pharmacists in their opposition to conscience clauses.  Eight in ten voters
 (79%) in New Jersey and seven in ten (69%) in Oregon oppose conscience clause
 legislation.  In addition, a majority of voters (60% NJ, 53% OR) feel that
 pharmacists should never be allowed to refuse medications to patients because
 of their own religious or moral objectives -- even when they are presented
 with the alternative of allowing pharmacists to refuse prescriptions as long
 as the pharmacy has a procedure for ensuring that patients are not denied
     "The public is right to be suspicious of 'conscience clauses' for
 pharmacists.  Like other health care providers, pharmacists have a
 professional duty to meet patients' medical needs," said Catherine Weiss,
 Director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.  "The conscientious
 decision about whether to obtain or use emergency contraception must
 ultimately be the patient's."
     These findings of widespread opposition to conscience clauses are
 particularly noteworthy in light of recent efforts by a vocal minority of
 pharmacists to brand EC as morally objectionable and to limit women's access
 to it.
     For more information or to contact a health care provider near you, call
 the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 888-NOT-2-LATE (888-668-2528) or visit
 the Emergency Contraception Web site at .
     (1)The survey had a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.
     The Reproductive Health Technologies Project was founded in 1988 to
 provide public education and build understanding of safe and effective
 reproductive health technologies for women.
     For a complete copy of the survey or for more information, please contact
 Pamela Long at 212-415-2099 or
     CONTACT:  Pamela Long of Elgin DDB, 212-415-2099, or,
 for the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

SOURCE Reproductive Health Technologies Project