WASHINGTON, April 5, 2005 -- Pharmacy counters are emerging as the latest battleground in the culture wars. Anecdotally, an increasing number of pharmacists have been refusing to fill prescriptions for the "morning-after" pill and other birth control medication they oppose on moral or religious grounds.
In November, Karen Romano's doctor wrote her a prescription after she suffered complications from a miscarriage. But her Los Angeles pharmacist only agreed to give her the medicine after he made sure it was not going to be used to induce an abortion.
"I was absolutely mortified that this man was trying to delve into my most intimate and painful affairs to impose his own moral agenda," Romano told ABC News.
Charlie Green owns two pharmacies in Stockton, Calif., that do not carry emergency contraception -- a high dosage of the birth control pill that is also known as the "morning-after pill" -- because those medications can remove a fertilized egg.
"Life begins in my point of view when the sperm and the egg come together, and anything that stops that continued growth or the implantation -- as far as I'm concerned -- takes the life of that potential human being," Green said.
States Join Debate
State legislatures across the country are jumping into the debate, as well.
Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota have laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group. This includes birth control pills that can also remove an egg from the uterus after fertilization but before implantation.
An additional nine states -- Arizona, California, Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin -- are considering similar legislation.
But other states are moving in the opposite direction. Last week, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a temporary order requiring pharmacists to fill every prescription.
"We are not going to allow people to make political statements at the expense of the access to health care that women deserve," Blagojevich told ABC News.
Blagojevich hopes to make that a permanent law in Illinois. Four other states -- California, Missouri, New Jersey and West Virginia -- are considering doing the same.
Some pharmacy chains like CVS -- and the American Pharmacists Association -- have tried a compromise policy, allowing pharmacists the right to refuse to fill a prescription but requiring that they refer the customer to someone who will fill it.
The anti-abortion group Pharmacists for Life says that would force its members to be complicit in murder.
"In a pregnant woman, there is another patient. There is a pregnant woman and there is her unborn child," said Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life.
The question ultimately is whose morality should prevail -- the patient's or the pharmacist's.