A ‘conscience clause’ to legitimise discrimination

// 25 March 2010

estradiol_molecule.jpgFurther to Laura’s earlier post about how the General Pharmaceutical Council’s so-called ‘conscience clause’ will allow dispensing pharmacists to “refuse to prescribe items that might clash with their personal religious beliefs”, I’d like to add my own concerns about the matter.

Although the BBC’s story specifically refers to “items such as the morning-after pill and contraception”, when I think about the recent attempt by the religious Right to perpetuate gender identity discrimination in Europe, it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to see how the ‘conscience clause’ could be invoked as a way of, for example, refusing to fill hormone prescriptions for trans people.

For those who are discriminated against in this way, and who are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, there’s always the option to buy essential meds from online sources. However, self-medicating has its own risks and may also result in people simply disappearing from the healthcare system; not receiving regular checkups; blood, hormone and other monitoring tests, etc, and running the risk of becoming seriously unwell. I’d like to know on whose conscience would be the death of even one trans person as a result of the application of this clause as a mask for their own prejudices.

Anecdotally, I’m well aware of the anger of many trans people towards a system that already seems to favour gatekeeping over facilitation, and I can only hope that this iniquitous ‘conscience clause’ does not become common currency as a way of upholding the personal prejudices of those pharmacists who may hold transphobic views, without actually being required to come to terms with their bigotry.

As Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, says:

“It seems incredible that pharmacists can arbitrarily tell people that they won’t serve them with medication that has been prescribed by a doctor.”

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(Estradiol molecule image via Wikipedia)

Comments From You

Clare // Posted 25 March 2010 at 4:22 pm

I can’t see how they are able to defend this loophole – the Police and CPS hve to uphold the law even if they don’t agree with it; teachers must teach the curriculum even if they don’t believe what it says; I have to work within my organisation’s policies & procedures even where I think they should change – why on earth should a pharmacist be given free reign to deny people the treatment they need??? FFS.

gadgetgal // Posted 25 March 2010 at 4:37 pm

Spot on – I’m not in favour of most opt out clauses, and this country seems to just LOVE them (check out how many opt outs we’ve had over the years in the EU, and that’s just politics!). It’s a worrying trend – I can understand wanting to give people the ability to protect themselves and their beliefs, but not to the detriment of society as a whole. The reason why the laws are changing is because they’ve been found to be wrong and unfair, so we need to change what we’re currently doing – I don’t see how giving everyone opt out clauses is going to help change things further. If everyone now decides to opt out then nothing’s actually changed, has it? So what was the point in changing the laws in the first place?

zohra // Posted 26 March 2010 at 10:06 am

Thought this bit was ace Helen:

I’m well aware of the anger of many trans people towards a system that already seems to favour gatekeeping over facilitation, and I can only hope that this iniquitous ‘conscience clause’ does not become common currency as a way of upholding the personal prejudices of those pharmacists who may hold transphobic views, without actually being required to come to terms with their bigotry.

Butterflywings // Posted 28 March 2010 at 9:13 pm

yeah, surprise surprise you bring this round to trannies issues as you do everything. IT’S ABOUT WOMEN idiot not men in drag and er if as you insist you ARE a woman, WEALLY cos you totes feew like one, then you will not have a problem as you’ll pass, huh? Not to mention that not everyone is actually out to get trans people, except in your self-obsessed imagination.

Helen G // Posted 28 March 2010 at 9:42 pm

Hello again Butterflywings

I’m posting your comment because I feel it’s important that hate speech like this is held up to the light for all to see.

However, please note that this is the last comment from you that I shall ever publish, no matter what pseudonyms or fake email addresses you dream up.

Thanks for stopping by.

Helen

gadgetgal // Posted 28 March 2010 at 10:42 pm

Hi Helen – your handling of hate mail with total grace is superb, and though it’s distasteful to read it you’re right to highlight it here. Just shows the problem people we have around already, and who we could be giving more power to if “conscience clauses” are put into all further equal rights legislation.

And I gotta add: I’ve never seen a more inappropriate pseudonym used EVER, light and delicate like butterfly wings that person ain’t!!

sianmarie // Posted 29 March 2010 at 12:25 pm

helen – well said and done on highlighting the hate speech, once again makes me grateful that we have moderated comments on this site. it is so sad that people feel this way but hopefully such attitudes are being reduced by the highlighting and criticising of them.

in terms of conscience clauses – they’re just so shocking! unbelievable that this is allowed, everyone has the right to access medical care without encountering prejudice and hate.

Laura // Posted 29 March 2010 at 12:29 pm

I’d just like to second gadgetgal’s support for Helen. Butterflywing’s nasty, transphobic comment is just one of many that have been left on the blog, and while we like to protect readers from such hatred, I think it’s important to show that these views exist within the feminist community and voice our opposition to them.

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