Debra J. Saunders

 The pharmacists' association has had a "conscience clause" since 1998 that allows pharmacists to not dispense prescriptions on moral grounds. It initially allowed pharmacists, like doctors, to refuse to dispense lethal medication under Oregon's assisted suicide law. It also helped dissenting pharmacists refuse to dispense lethal injection drugs for state executions. Lunner feels that the proposed federal legislation could obliterate these personal choices.

 The conscience clause also allows pharmacists who object to dispensing birth control, RU-486 or Plan B from doing so, but in a way that protects the privacy rights and reasonable expectations of consumers.

 Lunner repeated a nifty association slogan: "We support pharmacists stepping away, we do not support them stepping in the way." She added that pharmacists should refuse consumers "seamlessly" by getting someone else to fill a prescription or by politely not stocking a particular drug. In sum: "We do not support pharmacists using their role to harass patients."

 Warning: If Boxer and Sen. Frank Lautenberg have their way, consumers could force dissenting pharmacists to stock particular drugs and dispense them.

 Choice, once again, is a one-way street. Indeed, some in the anti-choice crowd can't even support the compromise of requiring pharmacists to find a co-worker or refer a customer to a nearby pharmacy to dispense a disputed drug.

 And Boxer, who has railed against the "global gag rule" -- which prevents U.S. aid from funding family-planning groups that support abortion -- now embraces an American gag rule for drugstores. Explaining her opposition to the rule in an April 5 speech, Boxer noted, "We are proud of the fact that we don't tell our citizens what they can think, what they can say, if it's on their own dime."

  She really means it, too -- as long as you're not a pharmacist.

Debra J. Saunders

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