Pharmacist Who Has “Pretty Good Idea” Why Girl Wants Birth Control Won’t Fill Prescription

Last August, a woman went into a Walgreens store in Albuquerque, New Mexico to pick up some prescriptions for her daughter. One of them was for Misoprostol, a drug that prepares a woman’s body for the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). (It also treats stomach ulcers.)

Jesse Garrett, the pharmacist on duty, filled the other prescriptions… but not that one. They had the drug in stock, but he said his “personal beliefs” prevented him from giving it to the mother.

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When she pressed Garrett and his manager for more information later, Garrett’s response was unbelievable:

Mr. Garrett explained in a judgmental tone that he was refusing to fill the prescription because he had a “pretty good idea” for what purpose the medication would be used. Mr. Garrett’s statements left M.S. with the sound belief that he was refusing to fill M.S.’s daughter’s prescription because he believed the prescription would be used for M.S.’s daughter’s reproductive healthcare.

It was slut-shaming by a pharmacist who felt his religion was more important than a doctor’s prescription to a patient. Even worse for the family, according to the ACLU of New Mexico and the Southwest Women’s Law Center, the incident “damaged their trust and confidence in Walgreens, pharmacists, and pharmacy staff.”

Walgreens later told the mother that they had “retrained” all the pharmacists in the area regarding what to do in those situations (and what to say). He added that the current policy, if a pharmacist didn’t want to fill it for personal reasons, was to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy. That went against what Walgreens had said in a similar situation years ago, when they promised they would handle prescriptions for things like birth control “as efficiently as other prescriptions without imposing any burden on the customer.”

The ACLU and SWLC sent a letter to the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau stating that this is also a clear-cut case of sex discrimination.

Refusing to fill prescriptions that are directly tied to the attributes that make women different from men — i.e., the ability to become pregnant — constitutes sex discrimination… It is inconceivable that the same denial of service would have occurred if Mr. Garrett had assumed that the medication would be used to treat stomach ulcers — the only indicated usage for men. In other words, had the patient been a man, rather than M.S.’s daughter, it is reasonable to assume that the prescription would have been filled at this location without delay.

So not only did the pharmacist refuse to do his job — making a faith-based assumption that a girl who needed a kind of birth control drug was a slut — Walgreens made the problem worse.

Keep in mind the drug is right there. If one pharmacist refuses to fill it, someone else on duty should be able to handle it immediately. A Christian pharmacist’s religion shouldn’t inconvenience a patient’s needs.

Garrett is in the wrong profession. If he wants to control women, he can become a pastor. Now it’s up to Walgreens to show how this situation will never happen again.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jaynee for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.