- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy opens Tuesday in a Chantilly shopping center, it will have on display a picture of St. John Leonardi, the 16th-century patron saint of pharmacists.

But there will be no birth-control pills, condoms, cigarettes or pornographic magazines. There will, however, be booklets on natural family planning.

DMC Pharmacy is one of the country’s few “pro-life pharmacies” that refuse to dispense contraceptives on moral and health grounds, arguing that they cause abortions, lead to promiscuity or endanger a woman’s health.

“Birth control is not health care,” said Robert Laird, executive director of DMC, the Fairfax nonprofit that will own and operate the 1,500-square-footstore at 13945 Metrotech Drive. “We are catering to a special niche of people who like the pro-life message in their business.”

The store is within a mile of two large parishes serving about 20,000 Catholics. Within five miles are four other booming parishes, bringing the total population of Catholic residents to about 50,000. The Catholic Shop, a bookstore next door to the pharmacy, already attracts plenty of customers.

“In the pharmacy business,” Mr. Laird said, “you don’t normally go more than two miles from your drugstore, but people are going to be coming from miles to come here.”

If people want contraceptives, he said, there are two other stores in Sully Plaza that stock them. Robert Semler, the pharmacist in charge, will not direct people on where to find such stores.

“People can look it up,” Mr. Laird said.

DMC Pharmacy opens for business at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a blessing by Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde. Benefactors of the $350,000 project also will attend. A more elaborate grand opening is planned for December.

Catholic doctrine forbids the use of any kind of artificial birth control, and all DMC’s board members are Catholic.

Stores like the DMC Pharmacy are on the cusp of a national debate over the rights of pro-life pharmacists versus a marketplace that seeks birth control.

Virginia has no law mandating pharmacies to sell contraceptives, although nine states, including Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington, have enacted laws requiring pharmacists to either fill the prescription or direct the customer elsewhere.

Karen Brauer, head of Pharmacists for Life International, said “thousands” of pharmacies nationwide do not stock the morning-after pill because it can be an abortifacient. Her Web site, www.pfli.org, lists six pharmacies that sell no artificial contraception of any sort.

She noted that pharmacies do not carry every drug and are not legally required to do so for most drugs.

“The birth-control pill has gained a social importance above a lot of other drugs that are more important to save lives,” she said. “There is a bunch of drugs that women need that pharmacists don’t carry. This is the only drug pharmacists are forced to order in. Other than antidotes, pharmacies are not required to stock anything.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America did not return a call asking for comment on the pharmacy, but its Virginia affiliate has run an alert on its Web site, www.naralva.org, saying, “Birth control is basic health care for women.” It urges a boycott of the DMC store, contending that “a pharmacy that doesn’t respect your choices doesn’t deserve your business.”

One of the masterminds behind the project is Dr. John T. Bruchalski, founder of Tepeyac Family Center, an ob-gyn practice in Fairfax, and president and chairman of the board of DMC.

“It won’t be just a Catholic pharmacy,” he said. “It’s trying to build a culture of life. We want to let the market decide if we are worthy of support and trust and not anyone’s social agenda. I believe there are a significant number of people who have tolerated this slowly encroaching culture of brokenness. When given an option, they will actually choose something other.”

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