Bill Protects Reproductive Rights and Religious Liberty

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey applauds the June 11 vote by the New Jersey Assembly to pass a bill that will help ensure women's access to birth control at pharmacies. Once the governor signs this bill into law, New Jersey will join a handful of states to offer such protections to women at the pharmacy.

The pharmacy access bill (A992), which the New Jersey Senate passed on October 19, 2006 (S2178), would require pharmacies to fill prescriptions for in-stock drugs or devices without undue delay, regardless of any religious or moral beliefs of individual pharmacists employed by the pharmacy. Pharmacies that employ pharmacists who object to filling prescriptions for contraceptives can accommodate the objection so long as the pharmacy ensures that customers receive their birth control at the pharmacy without undue delay.

"The pharmacy access bill strikes an important balance between protecting women's health and religious freedom," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU-NJ. "As businesses and places of public accommodation, pharmacies must abide by New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, which means ensuring that customers have access to prescriptions for contraception -- pills that only women use -- like any other medication, while also respecting employees' rights when it comes to freedom of religion."

The ACLU's long-held advocacy for both reproductive rights and religious liberty uniquely positions the organization to address this issue. In April, the ACLU released a report, "Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy," which examines legal questions raised when a pharmacist or pharmacy refuses to provide contraception based on a religious objection.

The report is available online at: http://www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/religion/29402pub20070417.html

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