If you could become pregnant, a pharmacist at Walgreens or CVS could refuse to fill your prescription if the medication could harm a pregnancy.
The companies have policies allowing their pharmacists to use professional discretion to deny medication to people they suspect are trying to circumvent state laws restricting abortion, USA TODAY reported.
The Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to abortion. The decision leaves abortion policy in the hands of individual states, some of which have banned the procedure.
Since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, patients in states that have enacted abortion bans have reported that pharmacies have denied them necessary medications that could be used to induce a miscarriage even though they’re not pregnant.
Pharmacists and abortion laws:Post-Roe, non-pregnant people are being denied medications over ‘hypothetical’ babies
What medications are pharmacists denying?
Pharmacies worried about breaking new abortion restrictions have denied people medication that could cause birth defects or a miscarriage.
A 14-year-old girl in Arizona was refused a refill on a drug she had been taking for years to manage her rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis just two days after the state’s new abortion law took effect, a Tucson TV station reported.
The medication, methotrexate, can also be used to treat ectopic pregnancies, a potentially fatal condition in which the fertilized egg lodges outside the uterus.
Patients also have reported being denied misoprostol, a drug that’s part of the medical abortion regimen but is also used to prevent stomach ulcers.
CVS requires its pharmacists to confirm a medication will not be used to terminate a pregnancy before it will fill a drug, said Mike DeAngelis, executive director for corporate communications at the company.
Walgreens, meanwhile, allows pharmacists to use their discretion “when determining the legality of a prescription based on state law,” said Fraser Engerman, a spokesperson for Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns the pharmacy chain.
What policies do Walgreens, CVS have regarding birth control?
Both of the nation’s largest pharmacies had policies in place before the Dobb decision allowing pharmacists to deny customers birth control if the request conflicted with their religious beliefs.
The policy includes prescriptions for birth control pills and other medication like Plan B, as well as the sale of condoms. (Plan B is an oral emergency contraceptive that can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex to reduce the risk of pregnancy.)
“Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection,” Walgreens tweeted in June. “At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.”
What have federal agencies said?
Federal officials warned in July that pharmacists must comply with federal civil rights laws in decisions they make when dispensing medication.
The guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services says pharmacies may not discriminate against customers “with regard to supplying medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of a prescribed medication for a patient; or advising patients about medications and how to take them.”
“As our nation faces another significant health care crisis, this guidance is to remind the roughly 60,000 retail pharmacies in the United States of the unique role pharmacies play in ensuring access to comprehensive reproductive health care services,” according to the guidance.
Contributing: Katie Wedell and Riley Gutiérrez McDermid