August 21, 2005
Having their fill
A small victory against wingnut pharmacists:
AUSTIN - Texas’ capital city became the first in the nation Thursday, according to Planned Parenthood, to prohibit a pharmacy from refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, emergency contraceptives and other medications.
The measure, approved unanimously by the Austin City Council, requires Walgreens, the city’s pharmaceutical contractor, to fill prescriptions for patients on Austin’s medical assistance program “in-store, without discrimination or delay,” even if an individual pharmacist declines to fill a prescription based on personal beliefs.
Planned Parenthood hailed the measure as a model for other cities and a strong statement against recent high-profile cases across the country in which pharmacists cited moral objections to filling birth-control prescriptions.
“We haven’t heard of any other city to do this,” said Danielle Tierney, regional spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. “Instead of waiting for a woman in Austin to get denied her prescriptions, we’re putting in this extra layer of protection and taking a positive, proactive approach to the problem. Our hope is that other city councils will look at this and say, ‘What a great idea. We can do this in our community, too.’”
In the Dallas area, several women have been denied prescriptions, including a rape victim who was refused the “morning after pill” and a North Richland Hills mother of two and first-grade teacher, who was denied her birth-control pills.
It never fails to amaze me how out of step the big pharmacy chains are with the vast majority of Americans. By allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions on moral grounds, Walgreens—along with pharmacy chains such as CVS—is siding with religious hate groups that think forcing rape victims to have abortions is somehow a morally superior act.
In fact some of the hate-group pharmacists may well be breaking the law, as I wrote in another post:
The role of a pharmacist is to dispense any medication prescribed by a licensed physician, and if necessary advise me on how to use that medication. That’s it. Nothing else. Once written, the prescription belongs to me, so if a pharmacist refuses to return an unfilled one—apparently a popular wingnut tactic—they are stealing my property. I believe that’s a crime.
Yet despite consistently bad press and several lawsuits, the big pharmacies stubbornly refuse to change their policies (one of Walgreen’s PR flacks describes its policy as “balanced.”). Which is why local governments need to step in—fast.
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