Unpacking Bedside Bioethics Tuesday, Nov 14, 2023, Noon - 1 pm

Conscientious Objection: The Pharmacist’s Right to Refuse to Fill Contraceptive Prescriptions

Zoom | Free | Open to the public


Can a pharmacist ethically refuse to honor a woman’s request to refill a prescription for contraceptives, even if the patient has refills available? Can a pharmacist ethically refuse to fill a prescription for emergency contraception? Depending upon the state in which each woman lives, “Actual answers may vary.” Two Midwest U.S. cases addressing these questions will be discussed.

Learning Objectives: By attending this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • Explain how a prescription for contraceptive medications may create an ethical dilemma between a prescriber, pharmacist and patient.
  • Summarize how emergency contraceptives work, and explain what this has to do with ethics.
  • Explain how a state’s Pharmacy Practice Act and the Pharmacist’s Code of Ethics may contribute to a values conflict for a pharmacist.

Resource:  Table 1.  Summary of Pharmacy Conscience Clauses by State.


Tim Stratton, PhD, RPh, FAPhA, is a Professor of Pharmacy Practice in the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Duluth. He received his BS in Pharmacy from Idaho State University, and an MS in Hospital Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmacy Administration from the University of Arizona. He has practiced community, hospital and long-term care pharmacy in frontier communities in Southeast Alaska, and at Indian Health Service/Tribal Health clinics in Alaska, eastern Montana and Minnesota. Prior to coming to the University of Minnesota in 2004, Dr. Stratton was faculty at the University of British Columbia and the University of Montana-Missoula. He has taught Ethics for 25 years, and also supervises Pharmacy and Medicine students at the student-run free HOPE Clinic at the CHUM homeless shelter in downtown Duluth. He has served on the Research Ethics Review Committees at Montana and Minnesota, is a Past Chair of the Pharmacy Ethics Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and is a Past President of the Minnesota Rural Health Association.