A new drug store at a Virginia strip mall is putting its faith in an unconventional business plan: No candy. No sodas. And no birth control. Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy is among at least seven pharmacies across the nation that are refusing as a matter of faith to sell contraceptives of any kind, even if a person has a prescription.
States across the country have been wrestling with the issue of pharmacists who refuse on religious grounds to dispense birth control or morning-after pills, and some have enacted laws requiring drug stores to fill the prescriptions.
In Virginia, though, pharmacists can turn away any prescription for any reason.
"I am grateful to be able to practice," pharmacy manager Robert Semler said, "where my conscience will never be violated and my faith does not have to be checked at the door each morning."
On Tuesday, the pharmacy celebrated a blessing from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. While Divine Mercy Care is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is guided by church teachings on sexuality, which forbid any form of artificial contraception, including morning-after pills, condoms and birth control pills, a common prescription used by millions of women in the U.S.
"This pharmacy is a vibrant example of our Holy Father's charge to all of us to wear our faith in the public square," said Loverde, who sprinkled holy water on the shelves stocked with painkillers and acne treatments. "It will allow families to shop in an environment where their faith is not compromised."
The drug store is the seventh in the country to be certified as not prescribing birth control by Pharmacists for Life International. The anti-abortion group estimates that perhaps hundreds of other pharmacies have similar policies, though they have not been certified.
Earlier this year in Wisconsin, a state appeals court upheld sanctions against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere.