In 2002, Neil Noesen, a Wisconsin pharmacist and devout Roman Catholic, faced a nightmare after he was slapped with $20,000 in court fines and restrictions on his license for refusing to hand a patient prescription that could be used for an abortion.
That case, like dozens of other similar cases that have dotted the nation, have spurred the development of a growing number of new "pro-life pharmacies" that cater specifically to guarding the religious objections of pharmacists opposed to contraceptives and abortion drugs.
Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, said that the new pharmacies – now over a dozen and growing – were an important milestone. Pro-life pharmacists could take solace in knowing that their constitutional right to defend life would be protected in the workplace, she said.
"This allows a pharmacist who does not wish to be involved in stopping a human life in any way to practice in a way that feels comfortable," she explained, according to The Washington Post.
Although pro-life and family groups have been uniform in their praise of the rise of new pharmacies that defend the rights of the unborn, opponents say that the pharmacies would hurt women who may be turned away during times when they find themselves badly in need of contraception.
"Contraception is essential for women's health. A pharmacy like this is walling off an essential part of health care. That could endanger women's health," said Marcia Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center.
The Family Research Council, however, disagreed.
"On the contrary, what endangers women's health is the propaganda by Planned Parenthood and others that insists 'emergency contraception' is safe, when it can and has caused serious side effects," the group said in a statement.
"The lack of contraception isn't killing any woman. Sexual promiscuity, on the other hand, is. We commend these drugstores for creating a safe environment for employees and consumers of moral and religious conviction," the FRC added.
Pro-life pharmacies, the FRC stressed, would be identical to any other pharmacy, except for the absence of contraceptives and drugs that could be used for an abortion like the so-called "morning after" pill.
"Although some decry the pharmacies as discriminatory, it is well within the proprietors' rights to adhere to a higher moral code than political correctness. If customers don't like it, they are free to take their business elsewhere," the FRC said.
At present, there are only nine states that have passed legislation protecting the moral objections of pharmacists who refuse to hand out contraceptives, highlighting the importance of pro-life pharmacies nationally.