This really pisses me off:
Perhaps it is my own background that makes me so sensitive to this issue. I am compelled, both ethically and legally, to provide care to a great many persons whom I dislike or disapprove of. I have cared for Neo-nazis, drug users, spousal abusers, child abusers, felons great and petty; I have cared for individuals who have insulted me and assaulted and injured my staff; I have cared for individuals whose behavior I found deeply immoral and objectionable. I have no legal exemption to refuse to provide them with health care, nor would I claim such a right were it a legal option for me. Because it would be wrong.
When you sign up to become a physician, to a certain extent it means you have to check your personal prejudices at the door. When you are the provider of medical care, you are in a position of power, and the patient is at their most vulnerable. If you are providing a service which is urgent and/or not readily available elsewhere, your duty to the patient is at its highest, and any threat to withold that care is abusive. To be sure, in a non-urgent setting, or for services which are readily available elsewhere, I have no problem with a doctor saying that for personal reasons he or she cannot care for a given individual or provide a particular service. But it is an ethically dicey matter to do so, and must be done in a manner which is consistent primarily with the patient's best interests and only secondarily with the provider's personal values.
The pharmacists have little ground to claim any such exemption. Their involvement with the patient's care in these cases is minimal and their relationship with the patient is superficial at best. Their power, however, is disproportionately magnified, since they have the ability to refuse to allow the patient to fill a prescription written by a provider with whom the patient has a stronger relationship. In essence, the pharmacist has little involvement in the decision-making process, yet for some reason feels they should be able to exercise a veto. And one should not assume that, refused at one pharmacy, that patients will necessarily be able to fill their prescriptions at another nearby one.
Now I am not dissing pharmacists -- many an alert PharmD has prevented me from making errors or helped with a difficult case. But that some pharmacists are upset about abortion or feel that it is wrong: I am not particularly sympathetic. The principle of patient autonomy and self-determination should trump their (and my) delicate sensibilities about what we feel is right for the patient. We as health care providers can guide patients to make good decisions, we can provide information and counsel, but we cannot project our own values onto patients in their hour of need.
And it is even more irritating that I suspect that this is an issue not truly because there are a lot of pharmacists who truly feel that their consciences are being violated, but rather that the right wing has found themselves a new wedge issue to play politics with health care.