Pharmacist refused to sell woman a miscarriage drug because he ‘was a good Catholic man’
In Michigan, a controversial situation arose when a Meijer pharmacist refused to fill a prescription a woman needed after suffering a miscarriage.
Rachel Peterson was mortified when the pharmacist accused her of lying and refused to fill her prescription due to his own personal religious beliefs because the prescribed drug got used for abortions.
Rachel and her husband have been trying to get pregnant with their first child. When she found out she was indeed pregnant, the couple was very excited.
Unfortunately, complications followed in June after being pregnant for about nine weeks with twins, in the emergency room doctors told Rachel that the one baby miscarried and that the remaining twin was a molar pregnancy and not viable.
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Later that day she had further testing done and Rachel said:
“I had another scan, and they said ... I had a bicornuate uterus and because of where the sac was, that it was not viable and that I most likely would never be able to have kids. They were sending me to the University of Michigan to be evaluated because if I continued the pregnancy, it would be life-threatening for me.”
Further testing was ordered, and the couple went to Ann Arbor, where she got told that her uterus was not abnormal and her life was not at risk. The pregnancy was still viable but there was a complication because a large blood clot had developed near the fetus.
Rachel was now at high risk of miscarrying the remaining twin. Although she was emotionally exhausted she was relieved to still be pregnant. When her bad case of morning sickness suddenly vanished after two weeks Rachel went to her obstetrician to get herself checked and said:
“They did a viability scan and unfortunately, there was no detectable heart rate. The fetus had died.”
WHAT WERE RACHEL’S OPTIONS?
Her doctor gave her three options. Firstly, she would wait and see whether her body would completely miscarry on its own without intervention.
Secondly, a drug named misoprostol could be used to help move the miscarriage along. The third option involved surgery to remove the fetus by using a procedure commonly known as D&C (dilation and curettage).
Going with the least invasive option Rachel allowed a certain amount of time for her body to naturally take care of the process, however it did not happen and her doctor prescribed the drug misoprostol to make sure the miscarriage completed, if the fetus remained in her uterus she would be at risk of developing sepsis, which is life-threatening.
The couple went to the Petoskey branch of Meijer pharmacies to have the prescription filled while on a weekend getaway to grieve their loss.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PHARMACY
Rachel and her husband were on the way from a store heading back to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription when she got a call from the pharmacist. He told her that he was a good Catholic man and could not in good conscience give her the prescription as it’s used for abortions, and could not prescribe it. Rachel tried to explain her situation to him and he merely replied:
“Well, that’s your word and I don’t believe you.”
She asked him to transfer the prescription to another local pharmacy which he refused to do as well. Rachel then called her hometown Meijer pharmacy in Ionia to see if the pharmacist there would fill her prescription.
He agreed but initially had trouble in getting the prescription from the Petoskey store. The couple ended their trip to Petoskey and drove home to Ionia to get the medicine Rachel needed.
WHAT DID MEIJER SAY?
Christine Fecher, the spokeswoman for Meijer declined to comment on the incident because of health privacy laws. She added that the company does work hard to support all of their pharmacy customer’s needs and said:
“We recognize the right of a pharmacist to abstain from filling a prescription based on his or her religious beliefs, but the pharmacist is required to have another Meijer pharmacist fill the prescription or, if no other pharmacist is available at that time, to transfer the script to another pharmacy convenient to the customer. This is consistent with guidelines spelled out in the American Pharmacists Association policy manual.”
Whether the pharmacist had been disciplined or not have not been disclosed.
THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF MICHIGAN STEPS IN
On October 17, 2018, the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint with Meijer on behalf of Rachel Peterson. Merissa Kovach, their policy strategist said:
“All women should be able to go to a Meijer Pharmacy to obtain the medicine they need without fear of discrimination.”
She commented that a pharmacy should not be able to deny patients medication prescribed by their doctors because of the personal beliefs of an employee. The ACLU also demands that Meijer implement policies ensuring all pharmacy customers receive medication in a timely manner regardless of the employee’s personal beliefs.
WHEN ABORTION DRUGS ARE ABUSED
These drugs have an important medical value, like in the case of Rachel Peterson, however, these medications can be abused which could lead to tragic circumstances.
This was almost the case with a woman who remains unnamed after her boyfriend, the 45-year-old Manishkumar Patel tried to slip her the abortion drug RU-486, because he did not want the unborn child.
He obtained the drug illegally in India and mixed the substance into a smoothie he had bought her. She thankfully did not drink the laced smoothie. Later on, Patel was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide of an unborn child and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Doctors prescribe medication for a reason, and the abuse of medication often come from obtaining these medications through illegal channels, and sometimes with dire consequences. There will always be those that abuse a system for their own personal gain, the least we can do is make sure they are held accountable.
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