The House has voted 48-21 in favor of HB 216a, the “pharmacist conscience” bill, after an hour-long debate. Rep. Sue Chew, D-Boise, who is a pharmacist, said, “This bill really makes things much more complicated for us in a world that’s already much too complicated.” Other opponents argued that the bill would hurt businesses, by forcing employers to stand by while a rogue employee denied people access to prescriptions left and right, offending customers and reducing the business’ profits. The objections could be to any medication, for any reason, though the bill was promoted by groups that oppose abortion and contraception.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said, “Name me the pharmacist that would refuse to provide drugs for the elderly for dementia or for Alzheimer’s. I don’t think there are any.” He said, “This is good legislation.” Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, said, “I think this is very important to have this in code and to protect our pharmacists and pharmacies.” Oddly, Idaho already permits pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication, because the state has no law requiring them to fill all prescriptions. The bill, as originally written, would have applied not only to pharmacists but to any employee of a pharmacy business, including cashiers or delivery people, but that was amended out of the bill and it now applies only to pharmacists. The bill now moves to the Senate.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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