Imagine opening up your box of The Pill and finding THIS note from your pharmacist.

It’s time to batten down the hatches. There’s a shitstorm approaching, and it’s all courtesy of one chemist in country New South Wales.

Let’s set the scene. Thurgoona Soul Pattinson Chemist is one of several pharmacies in the NSW town of Albury, but it’s the only pharmacy in the suburb of Thurgoona. The owner, Simon Horsfall, is a devout Catholic who agrees with the church’s views on birth control.

As a result, Horsfall has refused to stock condoms for 12 years now. The morning after pill, of course, is also out of the question. He does stock oral contraceptives, but what’s really pissed people off is this note that he’s written up, which is slipped into every pill packet sold.

Read it below:

The note slipped inside pill packets at Thurgoona Soul Pattinson Chemist.

If you can’t read the image, here’s the significant bit:

The owners of the Thurgoona Soul Pattinson Chemist, Simon and Kathleen Horsfall, accept the official teaching of the Catholic Church against the use of artificial contraception. For this reason they conscientiously object to the sale and support of artificial contraception.

If your primary reason for taking this medicine is contraceptive then it could be appreciated that, in the future, you could respect our views and have your OCP prescriptions filled elsewhere.

One of Horsfall’s customers posted the note on Facebook, and from there, it quickly exploded. As you’d expect it to – you can’t really hand out a religious note with every contraceptive to every woman in town and NOT anticipate some kind of backlash.

Facebook blew up with unhappy comments, not only towards Horsfall, but towards Soul Pattinson as a group. As a result, Soul Pattinson released a statement on their Facebook page, revealing that they’d disassociated themselves from Horsfall as a chemist:

The Facebook statement made by Soul Pattinson after the outcry.

Despite this, Horsfall remains undeterred, telling that “If I was selling the pill and taking the money that would be hypocrisy… People despise hypocrites with good reason. This is something that I can make a stand on in a gentle way.”

“I don’t believe that artificial contraception is a good thing for society in general. The church has always tried to put that [message] out, saying that it’s bad for people.”

But of course, this isn’t making a stand in a gentle way. This is interfering with women’s lives in the worst possible way: dictating what contraception they can and cannot buy for specific purposes.

It’s one thing to ask people to respect your religious views. But it’s another thing to push those religious views onto people who may be in a vulnerable position. Especially when you have a position of power and influence over them.


Perhaps it wouldn’t be such an issue if Horsfall was the only chemist who let his religious beliefs interfere with his pharmaceutical position. But as this story develops, there’s more evidence of other pharmacies in Australia refusing to stock the morning-after pill. (You can read a story about a woman who was refused the morning-after pill here.)

Dr Sally Cockburn told the Border Mail that one of her patients was refused access to the morning-after pill; she said the woman then fell pregnant and had to have an abortion. The chemists involved was named and shamed, and now Dr Cockburn is calling for more pharmacies to disclose their stance on contraceptives.

A woman fell pregnant after being refused the pill by a chemist

And it’s fair enough. No woman wants to walk into a chemist to ask for the morning-after pill in the first place. They definitely don’t want to be rejected and judged by a chemist who refuses to stock it.

It’s also an issue of access. Happily for the women who live in Thurgoona, there are many other chemists in Albury that would stock contraceptives without the whole moral judgement thing to go along with them.

However – that isn’t a luxury that all women have. Those in small towns can’t simply walk out of one chemist and into another one. They’re stuck without the pill. And potentially with a baby.

In the end, this story isn’t about whether or not the religious views of others should be respected. This is a story about the fact that it’s 2014, and yet there are still situations in which other people are deciding what a woman can and can’t do with her body.

By now, we should all know that the only person who gets to decide what a women does with her body – is that woman.

Do you think the pharmacist’s views should be respected? Or do you think that it’s completely wrong to mix religion and pharmaceuticals?