Oct. 25, 2005 – Reproductive rights advocates have set their sights on Target Stores following an incident in Missouri last month in which a pharmacist with the chain allegedly refused to fill a womanâ€™s prescription for emergency contraception. In allowing workers to deny prescribed medications to customers based on religious beliefs, the chain joins a growing number of businesses that permit employees to trump national law, patientsâ€™ needs and doctorsâ€™ recommendations.
On September 30, a Fenton, Missouri pharmacist at a Target store declined to fill a 26-year-old womanâ€™s prescription for emergency contraception and directed her to go to a nearby Walgreens pharmacy, according to Planned Parenthood, a reproductive-healthcare provider and pro-choice advocacy group. Though the company denies the incident occurred, it spurred an October 18 picket of the store by around 60 Planned Parenthood supporters, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Target officials say they conducted an internal investigation and found that there were no requests for emergency contraception on the day in question, though a spokesperson told the Post-Dispatch that employees are allowed to refuse to fill such prescriptions so long as they suggest an alternate store.
In a phone interview with the paper, the woman who sought to have the prescription filled maintained the veracity of her claim.
Emergency contraception is legal in the United States, but it is only available by prescription. Reports that it is hard to find in certain areas are increasing as companies implement policies allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill orders on moral grounds.
Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star reported that a 20-year-old rape survivor spent three days searching for a Tucson area pharmacy that stocked the pills and was refused service when she finally did. A manager with the Fryâ€™s location that would not fill the prescription said employees offered to find a drug store that would fill the prescription, though that account was refuted by the woman seeking the pills and a friend who accompanied her to the store, according to the paper.
Last year, the Arizona Family Planning Council found that fewer than half of over 900 pharmacies in the state stocked any form of emergency contraception, the Daily Star reported.
And it is not just pharmacists refusing to provide the medication. According to a study published this spring in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, 55 percent of Catholic and 42 percent of non-Catholic hospitals do not make emergency contraception available in the emergency department, even in cases of rape or incest.
In allowing its workers to deny birth control â€“ including emergency contraceptives â€“ to women seeking to prevent pregnancy, Target joins four other national chains. According to a Planned Parenthood report, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid and Winn Dixie also permit pharmacists to decline prescribing the drug. National stores with policies prohibiting employees from denying medication to customers include Brooks/Eckerd, Kmart, CVS, Costco, Fagenâ€™s, Harris Teeter, Super Valu and Price Chopper.