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Nicole Mone Arteaga walked into a Walgreens late last week to get a prescription filled. The response from the pharmacist behind the counter has torn much of the internet apart and forced the drugstore to try to explain itself.
As Arteaga explained in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 35,000 times and garnered more than 16,000 comments, she wrote that her pregnancy had to be terminated because the fetus’ development had stopped. She said her doctor had given her two options to end the pregnancy: a medical procedure to remove the tissue from her uterus or prescription medication. She chose the latter, and she went to Walgreens to pick up the medicine.
Last night I went to pick up my medication at my local Walgreens only to be denied the prescription I need. I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7-year-old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs.
She said she left the store in tears, feeling “humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor.”
“I get it we all have our beliefs,” she wrote. “But what he failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted. This is something I have zero control over. He has no idea what its (sic) like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so.”
Arteaga eventually got her prescription filled at another Walgreens after the pharmacist had her prescription transferred. She said she contacted the company’s corporate office and filed a complaint with the Arizona Board of Pharmacy.
This post isn’t something I generally do, but last night I experienced something no women should ever have to go thru...Posted by Nicole Mone on Friday, June 22, 2018
On Sunday, Walgreens responded in a tweet.
Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient's needs in a timely manner.— Walgreens (@Walgreens) June 24, 2018
On Monday, Walgreens said in a statement via CNN: “After learning what happened, we reached out to the patient and apologized for how the situation was handled. To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.”
But the explanation doesn’t seem to be good enough for much of the internet.
Exactly which other meds are covered by your policy? Blood thinners? Anti-depressants? Topical acne creams? And please provide evidence that men have also been refused, since such violations of bodily autonomy only seem to affect women.— Janeminty (@janeminty) June 25, 2018
Also Walgreens pharmacists with objections would be required to register their status so prescribing docs’ software can blacklist those locations, preventing a public confrontation. If the objective is to allow moral objection and not humiliation, this is fair right?— Janeminty (@janeminty) June 25, 2018
This is a terrible policy that allows for discrimination in medical matters. I feel like I’m living in The Handmaid’s Tale.— Maria Bartholdi (@MissMariapants) June 25, 2018
Under no circumstances should a pharmacist be able to refuse to do their jobs! Religious beliefs have no place in the public service industry and if you don’t fire pharmacists for refusing to fill a RX then we will take our business elsewhere!— Equality Mom (@friesenreality) June 25, 2018
Your policy doesn't allow a pharmacist to loudly violate HIPAA by announcing a customer's Protected Health Information in front of several other people, so I can only assume this guy will be fired?— Nicole Williams (@augleda) June 24, 2018
Arteaga later told CNN that she felt that when the pharmacist told her he wouldn’t fill the prescription, she was losing control of her body.
As CNN notes, Arizona is one of only six states (along with Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota) that allow pharmacists to decline to provide for emergency contraception drugs on moral grounds.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.