Claiming it would violate his religious beliefs, a male Catholic pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a woman experiencing a miscarriage.
Detroit Free Press reports:
Rachel Peterson, 35, alleges a pharmacist at the Meijer store on Lears Road in Petoskey refused to fill her prescription for a drug called misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) in July because of his personal religious views. She says he also refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy
Peterson explained to the Detroit Free Press:
He said that he was a good Catholic male and that he couldn’t in good conscience give me this medication because it’s used for abortions, and he could not prescribe that. When I divulged to him that the fetus was no longer viable, and that … I needed to progress the situation further, he said, ‘Well, that’s your word and I don’t believe you,’ and he refused to fill it.
Describing her experience to the ACLU, Peterson said:
When you’re at one of the lowest moments of your life, you don’t expect this sort of demeaning treatment. A pharmacy should not be able to deny patients medication prescribed by their doctors based on the personal beliefs of a particular employee.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed a complaint with Meijer on Peterson’s behalf, claiming what the pharmacist did was discriminatory and violated the state’s public accommodation laws.
The complaint asks Meijer to create policy requiring pharmacists to give patients their prescriptions, regardless of the pharmacists’ religious beliefs, and concludes thus:
We demand prompt action from Meijer. No one should have to endure humiliation and the inconvenience of driving six hours to receive time-sensitive vital medication. Not only must Mr. Kalkman be disciplined for treating Ms. Peterson cruelly, but Meijer must implement a policy to ensure that all customers in the future receive their medication without undue delay regardless of the personal beliefs of its pharmacists. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions.
Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Michigan, said:
All women should be able to go to a Meijer Pharmacy to obtain the medicine they need without fear of discrimination. Our client clearly was a victim of sex discrimination. Had the customer been a man prescribed the same medication, that is also commonly used to treat ulcers, the pharmacist would have filled it.
Kovach told the Detroit Free Press:
I think it’s very clear in this case that had Rachel been a man seeking this exact same medication for stomach ulcers, she wouldn’t have been turned away for the same reason.So Rachel was denied this based on the personal beliefs of this pharmacist and then also because she’s a woman.
Unfortunately in Michigan, we don’t have an explicit state law that goes so far as to protect patients like Rachel. What we would hope is that Meijer and other pharmacies would agree that they’re allowed to accommodate the personal beliefs of their employees, but that accommodation cannot include permitting discriminatory denials of care that burden patients and customers.
Any customer should be able to expect the same service regardless of who they are and what their prescription is.
In a statement to CBS News, Meijer said:
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.
Meijer spokeswoman Christina Fecher didn’t say whether the pharmacist, identified as Richard Kalkman, has been disciplined.
Bottom line: Richard Kalkman, a smug and condescending pharmacist who identified himself as “a good Catholic male,” refused to fill a prescription for a woman experiencing a miscarriage, placing his prejudice and bias above the health and welfare of his patient. As such, he should be fired. No woman should have to worry when they go into a pharmacy that they might be turned away, humiliated, and abused by some pharmacist refusing to do his job.