Ethical concerns regarding possible career in pharmacy

Background: I’m 18 and starting college this September. I’ve decided that a health career would be best for me and I’ve been considering pharmacy. I think it is a good fit regarding my skills and preferences and it pays enough for all that schooling to be worth it. However, I am wondering whether or not I have the right to refuse to dispense abortifacient drugs. Or, if there is no way that I can refuse it, is there a career within pharmacy in which I would never encounter such a situation? Most of what I know about pharmacy is the kind that is over-the-counter at a Walgreens or CVS. Thank you in advance.

That depends on where you live.

For information on religious exemption, rights of conscience, and job opportunities, I suggest you reach out to the below organization for information, resources, and mentoring:

Pharmacists for Life International

It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the National Catholic Bioethics Center:

And become acquainted with the folks at the Thomas More Law Center:

Here is an article that lists the standings of conscience laws in each state.

The only place that I could think of that you wouldn’t have to dispense abortifacients would be as a pharmacist in a truly Catholic Hospital. So far, Catholic Hospitals have not been forced to provide abortions, so I think that they wouldn’t have to prescribe the morning after pill.

I expect that eventually all states will require pharmacists to dispense abortifacients.

I have several friends who went the pharmacy rout. Here are some things to consider.

and it pays enough for all that schooling to be worth it.

Be careful here. my friends discovered that this is not always true. The higher paying jobs are in very high demand and are highly competitive. The majority of pharmacists really do not make a lot of money. And compared to the schooling costs involved it can not be a good idea.

Also, what both of my fiends have said is that it is really hard on your perception of people. Both of them have said that watching the same overweight smokers come in and continue to medicate and not educate is frustrating to no end. And people tend to be rude in the service industry. It is a harder job with more responsibilities with the same customer service as a clerk…

As for the ethics involved I would be very careful about that. I personally think it is a dicey area now, and the way things are going who knows how bad it will get. If this is something you wish to have as a 30+ year career I would be concerned about the direction the ethical and moral aspects are headed.

I do think healthcare is a good field and we do need good pharmacists. So you will have to decipher that on your own. It is very very good that you are asking these questions now. One of my pharm friends has decided to leave the field and is eating the cost for that mistake.

I’ll leave you with a final thought.

My friend said to me that 99 percent of the job is this…

Ok, now you count to ten and check my work”

You need to have a 98% average to qualify for Pharmacist,
so good luck on your attempt, as for the ethical aspect
of being a pharmacist, I don’t know if you can cite an
amendment to uphold your conscientious objections.

My daughter is a pharmacist and there are job opportunities other than working in a retail pharmacy. You might work in a hospital pharmacy, or clinics that specialize in a narrow range of care such as cardiac care, cancer treatments, etc.

Her last year of school included working in different settings to help her decide which was a better fit for her.

Good luck to you! :thumbsup:

You’re going into college at this stage. While you may think your future lies in pharmacy, don’t close yourself off to other possibilities. The average college student changes his/her major 5 times by the time they’ve graduated.

My dad was a pharmacist. Then he went to dental school to become a dentist. He said pharmacy was very boring. Counting pills. As far as the ethical stuff, while you may be able to claim a religious exemption, it will make you less competitive as an employee. I, personally, would not put all my eggs in that basket. I went to dental school and now am my own boss. While there are more stresses in some areas, there are benefits in even more.

If I were you, I’d look at other talents and see where else you could apply them. Just my 2 cents.

You won’t mind ringing up pregnancy-prevention stuff at the till, like condoms for example? Or the cervical cap? Or filling scripts for the birth control pill? (which isn’t an “abortifacient” drug).


Some birth control pills work by making the uterine lining inhospitable to an embryo. The embryo is created and then can’t attach. I would consider that an abortifacient.

Just so you know, birth control pills are not always used as contraception. It is frequently used in cases where women go three or more months without a period and then hemorrhage. The pill allows the uterine lining to slough off so it doesn’t build so thick that the woman starts to hemorrhage when she has a period. These women are usually infertile anyway. Some women with this condition have been able to get pregnant by going on and off the birth control pill.

So unless you give someone the third degree, you have no idea what it’s being used for.

Thanks for the replies and sorry I am late in responding. It’s late and I cannot formulate a response to anything specific. But, I will say this: I have two motives for pursuing the health field. One is the practical make enough money to raise a decent family with. Another is that, even if Mr. Right never shows up, my work will be important enough to give me a sense of purpose. And, I’ve always been inclined toward anatomy/biology/any science besides physics. I just get the feeling that, with the downward spiral our society is going, the health field will be a big battle ground and I want to offer some sort of resistance. I know I could do more as a doctor, but, from what I read about medical school online, it is a soul-crushing experience that will turn you into a misanthrope. I figured that pharmacy would be fine for me.

I’ve had similar ethical concerns with the thought of possibly over-prescribing medications and not wanting to get very involved with medications if possible. It’s part of the reason I chose physical therapy as a career path. Civilian PTs of course can’t prescribe medications so there is no moral dilemma there.

A side note: a friend of mine works for the VA system as a pharmacist and makes 110,000. I always appreciated real numbers when looking at future professions. Good luck!

As Galnextdoor stated, a pharmacist working in a Catholic hospital, would probably be not put in a position to dispense abortifacients or contraceptives. Same for a pharmacist working in a nursing home, a cancer clinic, or other areas of practice. Although such places might not have as much contact with “customers” as a retail pharmacist would, if having a “customer service” type job appeals to you.

As for retail, other than the strictly legal aspects of “conscience protection”, I suspect that a “mom and pop” type pharmacy might be more flexible than a national chain such as CVS – though granted, such pharmacies seem to be on the way out in many places.

But it seems you’re not actually set on becoming a pharmacist, you just know “I want to have a solid career in health care, but I don’t want to be a doctor”.

Well, there are MANY other fields in healthcare, and many will provide a solid living without requiring all the investment of time, money, stress, etc, that even going to pharmacy school takes, and wouldn’t require you to have anything to do with abortion of contraception.

Such as, physical therapy, occupational therapy (I personally know someone who is in this field, and finds it a lot more rewarding than his prior job as a salesman), nutritionist, all sorts of “tech” fields such as lab tech (CAF used to have a very outspoken poster who had that job), EKG tech, etc.

FYI, while Windmill mentioned dentistry, AFAIK, it has very similar training requirements to medicine, so if you think going to medical school would be too stressful, I wouldn’t recommend becoming an actual dentist. But there are other jobs in dentistry, such as those “dental hygienists” (who I usually spend much more time with during a dentist appointment than the actual dentist).

Anyway, I encourage you to look into other such fields in the health care profession. I’m sure there are many others that I don’t even know about!

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