Plans to drop a conscience clause for pharmacists discriminate against Christians, a prominent pro-life campaigner has said.
Currently, pharmacists who do not wish to sell abortifacients, such as the morning after pill, to customers may refer them to another pharmacist.
Chris Whitehouse, a trustee of Right to Life and a Conservative councillor, said that removing the clause means the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) will be ignoring the Equality Act 2010.
He said that current guidelines prioritise patient-centred care, while also accepting there will be occasions where pharmacists may conscientiously object, adding that these guidelines work in practice.
The GPhC has admitted in the public consultation document that the proposal to remove these allowances will be “a significant change from the present position”.
Writing for Conservative Home, Whitehouse said this would raise the threat of serious repercussions for those who exercise their pro-life views, such as evangelical Christians.
If pharmacists fail to comply with the proposed GPhC standards, they risk losing their license to practise.
Whitehouse also argued that Christians would struggle to secure employment, and that “it is only a matter of time before such careers are closed down as options for those who hold such views”.
He added: “We have already seen the impact of the Abortion Act in driving those of faith out of careers in obstetrics and gynaecology.
“It seems that the same rising tide of discrimination is about to engulf our locals pharmacists too.”
Whitehouse also highlighted the irony of the proposal, which cites the Equality Act as its impetus for change while simultaneously ignoring that ‘religion or belief’ are also protected characteristics.
He said: “In creating this discriminatory situation, the consultation document even acknowledges under the law, all these ‘protected characteristics have equal status’, then seems blatantly to ignore that requirement.”