- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy, one of fewer than a dozen pharmacies in the country that refuse to stock any kind of birth control, cigarettes, pornography or condoms, opened with a Catholic bishop’s blessing and sprinklings of holy water Tuesday in Chantilly.

About 100 people, half of them children, crammed into the DMC Pharmacy in Sully Place Shopping Center to hear Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde preach about “transforming hearts through health care” amid boxes and bottles of Clearasil, Neutrogena and St. Ives Apricot Scrub.

“The most fundamental illness in our contemporary society is a pervasive disrespect for the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human person, whose life begins at conception,” the bishop said.

Applauding the pharmacy for providing “a faith-based, family-friendly, pro-life environment,” he called the opening of the DMC Pharmacy “a historic moment.”

The store, just off Route 50 in one of Northern Virginia’s busiest corridors, refuses to dispense birth control on the grounds that it destroys a developing life and that the hormones in birth-control pills are dangerous to a woman’s health. Catholic doctrine forbids the use of artificial birth control.

There is no sign in the window that says contraceptives are not available inside. DMC officials say there are at least two pharmacies within walking distance that provide them.

“If we sell Coke products, we don’t advertise that we don’t sell Pepsi,” said Robert E. Laird, executive director of Divine Mercy Care, the Fairfax nonprofit that owns and operates the pharmacy.

The DMC has a crucifix on one wall, booklets on natural family planning and a painting of Jesus with a flaming heart on His chest. The DMC logo has a sacred-heart motif, with a heart superimposed over a cross with rays coming forth.

“It’s nice to see health care you can trust,” said Rachel Fezzie, a Herndon mother of three whose 3-year-old daughter, Aileen, clung to one leg. “Here, there’s people who understand your values and give you advice you can trust.”

Richard P. Sloan, professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said the DMC Pharmacy should at least refer people to stores that dispense birth control.

Not doing so “appears to violate any number of professional codes of ethics of the American Pharmacists Association,” he said. “The central element is that the pharmacy must place the well-being of the patient over the pharmacist’s personal well-being.”

The association did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The DMC Pharmacy is part of a national debate on the rights of pro-life pharmacists versus consumers who insist they dispense birth control. At least two people at the opening said they were Catholic pharmacists who said they had either lost their jobs for not giving out contraceptives or were in danger of doing so.

One pharmacist, who asked that his name not be used, said that after he converted to Catholicism a year ago, his priest advised him that giving out birth control was a sin.

He has other employees dispense the drugs.

“I have faced the question of how this medication works,” he said. “As a professional, it’s a violation of moral law if a chemical kills a child.”

Mr. Laird said that if DMC proves to be commercially viable, the nonprofit will open similar stores that will employ pharmacists who are in similar straits.

“There are a lot of people in the country like him,” he said, “who are walking on a tightrope.”

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