A ‘conscience clause’ to legitimise discrimination

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.”


(Estradiol molecule image via Wikipedia)

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