Abortion and Euthanasia

Drug Topics, March 9, 1992 | Go to article overview

Abortion and Euthanasia


Death and taxes--both are inescapable. But while pharmacy has little to do with taxes, it touches the face of death every day. As the link between medicine and patient, pharmacists are the gateway through which people can reach for drugs to end life--both before birth and after.

This position is an uncomfortable one for quite a few panelists. On dispensing drugs for abortion: "I don't know, (it's) a conflict between medicine and health versus morals and religion," explained an independent manager from Pennsylvania. On dispensing drugs for euthanasia: "I just don't know if I could do it," admitted a staff pharmacist in a North Carolina chain store.

Out-of-control health-care costs. World overpopulation. Child abuse. Abortion and euthanasia are linked to each of these social problems, yet they are also linked to religious and ethical beliefs. Therein lies the dilemma--and its wrenching tug is reflected in our panelists' divided opinions.

A little more than a third of the Drug Topics panel said they favor abortion (41%) and euthanasia (41%), and about a third say they don't (37% and 33%, respectively). On both issues, about a quarter are undecided (22% on abortion, 26% on euthanasia).

A closer look at the reasoning behind our panelists' positions on abortion reveals strong convictions--and a lot of soul-searching. Those who favor it as an option for pregnant women (no one actually favors abortion per se, as one of our panelists pointed out) often mention the child's quality of life, overpopulation, and a woman's right to control her own body.

Explained a supervisor in her upper 30s from Florida: "Irresponsibly bringing a baby into this world is not inherently 'good'...Life needs love and acceptance. Without them, who's to say whether life or death is better?" A male store owner from Massachusetts pointed out: "Individual rights come first. A female is entitled to control of her body and destiny."

As might be expected, more female than male community pharmacists are in favor of a legal abortion option (53% versus 37%, respectively). Also, more community pharmacists in the East and West are in favor of abortion than are those in the South and Midwest (52% and 46% versus 31% and 37%).

Those on the other side of the fence clearly view abortion as murder--an act that for them overwhelms all other arguments. "I saw ultrasounds of my daughter at 7 weeks' gestation. She was certainly alive. Ending the pregnancy would be murder," stated an Indiana buyer in his early 30s. Fewer independent pharmacists are in favor of abortion than chain or hospital pharmacists (36%, 43%, and 46%, respectively).

For all their strong feelings on abortion, well over half (63%) of our panel indicate that pharmacists have a very limited role to play in the national abortion debate, if any at all. "This issue is highly personal and emotional," said a male California store owner. "Clergy, physicians, and psychologists should be involved. It's not the role of pharmacists." Added a pharmacist who provided no demographic information: "I don't want anyone telling me what I need to do in my life, and I won't do it to anyone else."

Those who do see a role for pharmacy in the abortion debate (37%) most often mention contraception, sex education, and the so-called abortion pill (RU-486). "Educate the public in regard to birth control and sex control," urged an independent store owner from Detroit. "Because of the new abortion pill, we should have a choice and say in the approval or disapproval of this (abortion)," contended a manager from South Carolina in her 20s.

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