Religious Beliefs And EHC

Are pharmacists entitled to refuse to supply emergency hormonal contraception if this would be inconsistent with their religious beliefs? The NHS terms of service require pharmacy owners to supply with reasonable promptness any item on a prescription form. The GPhC's standards of conduct, ethics and performance require pharmacists to make sure that if their religious or moral beliefs prevent them from providing a service, they tell the relevant people or authorities and refer patients and the public to other providers. Pharmacists must, of course, always act in the best interests of their patients and the public. However, some who believe that providing EHC contravenes the principles of their faith may also believe that it would be wrong to refer patients to other providers.

English law is governed by the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 of the Convention begins:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes ... freedom, ... in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

The right to religious freedom is not unqualified. Article 9 goes on to say:

"Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of...

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