Church and Medicine: Medical and Public Health Associations on Refusal Clauses

Physicians believes that while healthcare providers’ right of refusal on religious and moral grounds should be protected, the right of the patient to timely and comprehensive reproductive healthcare must always prevail.

When a physician objects to performing a certain treatment, the patient may be referred to another facility for the service, as long as this referral is prompt and not geographically or economically burdensome. If the referral causes an undue hardship on the patient, healthcare providers must put the patient’s health ahead of their personal beliefs and provide the care. Several other leading national medical and public health associations hold similar beliefs.

Follow the links below to view policy statements from some of these organizations, including our own.

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

American Medical Association (AMA)

Physicians for Reproductive Health 

Society for Adolescent Medicine (SAM)


The American Pharmacists Association on Pharmacist Refusals

When a physician prescribes a certain medication treatment regimen for a patient, that prescription is the result of a patient-provider relationship, founded in trust, respect and understanding. Based on medical expertise and personal preference, the physician and patient agree upon the treatment that is in the patient’s best interest. The patient then brings that prescription to a chosen pharmacy with the expectation that the medication will be dispensed without delay or harassment.

Getting a birth control prescription filled at a pharmacy used to be a routine errand. But increasingly, women are facing harassment and intimidation from pharmacists who refuse to dispense their prescriptions, and who may even refuse to return prescription slips so women can take them elsewhere. This alarming trend represents an invasion of the patient-physician relationship and limits a patient’s ability to make her own reproductive healthcare decisions.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA), representing more than 57,000 pharmacists and individuals in pharmaceutical fields, believes that pharmacists have the right to “step away” from participating in practices which they find morally or spiritually objectionable, but they must not “step in the way” of the patient accessing the treatment. The APhA believes that it is possible to accommodate both the rights of the patient and the objections of the pharmacist in a way that does not include confrontation or a disruption to the healthcare process.