A Pharmacist's Dilemma

Bowers_pharmacist CBS

Pharmacist Karen Brauer is caught in a moral vise — balancing personal beliefs against professional responsibilities.

When she went to work for Kmart, she says told them, "which drugs I don't dispense."

That decision, reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers, got her fired from a Cincinnati-area Kmart when she refused to dispense a certain birth control pill, Micronor.

"It stops human life approximately a week after it's started," said Brauer.

Brauer, employed by Kmart for seven years, sued the company. Her situation highlights a growing dilemma facing pharmacists. With new "morning after" contraceptives on the market, many say they are being called upon to be part of an abortion procedure with their jobs on the line if they refuse.

"Are we going to compel a pharmacist to engage in an abortion procedure that violates their conscience? I think the answer has to be no," argued Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.

When asked if she thinks that, to some extent, by refusing to give out certain medications, she is imposing her beliefs and values on other people, Brauer said, "I believe that when someone asks me to give out something that I think is killing, they're definitely imposing their beliefs on me."

Kmart won't discuss this case, but says it "reasonably accommodates associates' beliefs unless the accommodation causes undue hardship."

Ohio is one of a number of states considering legislation to protect conscientious objectors. But many feel such laws are simply a smokescreen designed to limit a patient's access to controversial but legally prescribed drugs, and on top of that they are simply bad for business.

"If they're turned away by a pharmacist, they're not going to leave their prescription and say 'I'll be happy to come back tomorrow.' There's too many other opportunities for them to drive two blocks down the street and get that prescription filled," said Lora Miller of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.

When Brauer's case goes to trial next month, a court will be asked for the first time to judge if and when a pharmacist's beliefs outweigh a company's right to sell and the customer's right to buy.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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