Christian pharmacists who object to selling the morning-after pill are facing pressure from their professional regulator to recommend other outlets to customers.
Many pharmacists – not just Christians – have moral objections to the morning-after pill because the drug can abort a conception.
And those with moral objections say there is little difference between being forced to recommend another outlet and being forced to sell it themselves.
The regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), has issued “non mandatory” guidance on the matter. They say the guidance will be open to review after one year.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the guidance was circulated last week and it tells pharmacists that they are obliged to refer a customer to a specified chemist who is willing to distribute the pills and should also ring ahead to check that the product is in stock.
It also says that conscientious objection on religious grounds must take second place to contractual demands of employers, like the NHS.
But lawyer Neil Addison, who comments on religious discrimination law, says the guidance misses the point.
He said: “What many people do not seem to grasp is the fact that if you are refusing to do something because it is morally objectionable you cannot be obliged to recommend someone else,” he said. “If they (the GPhC) accept that a person has a right to conscientious objection they cannot take it further than that.”
And Anna Sweeting-Hempsall a pharmacist in Sunderland said the new guidance “forces pharmacists to act against their consciences” and would cause legal conflicts between staff and employers.
She said: “Now the employers have the right to impose any contractual obligations that take precedence over the right of conscience.
“The need to notify people beforehand makes you virtually unemployable,” she said.
“Anybody who values the sanctity of life from the moment of conception will be forced from the profession.”