Unaware of EC’s mechanism of action, Spanish Constitutional Court protects a pharmacist’s right to refuse to sell EC

In 2008, a pharmacy in Seville, (in the southern Spain’s Andalusia region) was fined for refusing to sell emergency contraceptive pills (EC). The pharmacy challenged this, however, and the case was brought up to the Constitutional Court. In July 2015 this Court found that the pharmacist’s right to “ideological freedom” was violated by the sanction, because the owners of the pharmacy in question were officially registered as “conscientious objectors”.

In Spain, conscientious objectors can refuse to perform abortions but cannot refuse to provide contraceptives. Furthermore, conscientious objection is a mechanism foreseen for reproductive health care providers, but not for pharmacists. Ignoring all available scientific evidence and even the technical criteria of the Spanish Medicine Agency, the highest national authority on this issue –  the Constitutional Court decision equates EC with pregnancy termination.

The Spanish Society of Contraception, has publicly expressed its disagreement with the Court’s ruling. The European Consortium for Emergency Contraception supports the Spanish Society statement and also regrets this decision.

The right to receive timely information on EC and to be able to access this postcoital method, is a reproductive right, and part of the body of Human Rights. A number of treaties and conventions, such as those monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), and the Human Rights Committee, have found that EC should be available as part of the range of modern contraceptive services offered in a country. Restrictions on free distribution of EC may violate a number of rights, including the rights to health, non-discrimination, gender equality, and to be free from ill-treatment. 

We hope that the decision is amended, upon review of the most recent evidence of EC’s mechanism of action and that efforts are made to ensure that Spanish women are able to exercise their reproductive rights, protected under the national law.

For more information, click here (in Spanish) and here (in English).