Embargoed Until February 14, 2000

Contact: Pamela Long
(212)415-2099
pam.long@ny.ddb.com

Survey Finds Pharmacists, Public Favor Widespread Access to Emergency Contraception,

Oppose Restrictive "Conscience Clause" Legislation

 

January 14, 2000 - Washington, D.C.  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 care.

"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 1-888-NOT-2-LATE (1-888-668-2528) or visit the Emergency Contraception Web site at http://not-2-late.com.

 

1The 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.

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For a complete copy of the survey or for more information please contact Pamela Long at (212) 415-2099 or pam.long@ny.ddb.com