Woman: Meijer pharmacist refused to give miscarriage drug

Ionia County

PETOSKEY, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — A Michigan pharmacist accused of refusing to fill a prescription to help an Ionia woman complete a miscarriage no longer works for the Meijer retail chain.

Meijer spokeswoman Christina Fecher says the pharmacist last worked in July. She didn’t say whether he was fired from the Petoskey store in northern Michigan.

The pharmacist refused to fill the prescription, telling Rachel Peterson it was against his religion.

“I feel there should be a broad policy change and enforced so everyone knows what their rights are and what to expect, so they’re not at a loss when and if this happens again,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the pharmacist worked at a Meijer store in Petoskey. She and her husband were in northern Michigan in July following the miscarriage of her child.

“He stated that he could not, in good conscience, could not give me the medication because he was a good Catholic male,” Peterson said. “I didn’t understand why and then I asked him, ‘are you serious?’ And he said ‘yes.'”

The American Civil Liberties Union spoke out on the incident.  

“Rachel’s case is one of the mos egregious cases we’ve ever seen,” said Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the ACLU.

Peterson said she intended to fill a prescription to accelerate the miscarriage and avoid infection, but says the pharmacist refused to provide the medication. 

“I had no idea that this was even legal that he could decline this type of medication, or any type of medication based on religious beliefs,” Peterson said.

Peterson says the pharmacist told her he didn’t believe her explanation. A Meijer pharmacist hours away in Ionia agreed to fill the prescription.

Meijer issued the following statement in regards to the case: 

“Meijer has received a letter from the ACLU regarding a complaint that one of our pharmacists inappropriately handled a refusal to fill a prescription. We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and while we cannot discuss this specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws that protect health information, we want all of our pharmacy customers to know of our practices regarding a pharmacists’ ability to refuse to fill a prescription. Our practice is based upon our overwhelming concern for patient safety and care, balanced with the need to accommodate the religious beliefs of our employees. A pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs. However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store. If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them. This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines. A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure, is in violation of our process.
 
“Meijer strives to treat its pharmacy customers with dignity and respect. The pharmacist identified by recent reports has not been employed by Meijer since early July 2018. While we cannot comment on any pharmacy customer matter, we apologize for any customer experience that does not align with our core values.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking Meijer to ensure that another incident doesn’t happen.

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