An Arizona woman was denied her prescription for a medication to end her pregnancy by a Walgreens pharmacist because of his ethical beliefs. On Friday, Nicole Arteaga took to Facebook, describing how she “stood at the mercy” of the pharmacist. She was forced to justify her need for the medication in front of her 7-year-old son and other Walgreens customers, Arteaga wrote.
Arteaga recently discovered she was pregnant, she said in the post, but because of a previous miscarriage, her doctor was closely monitoring her pregnancy.
Last Tuesday, when Arteaga was nine weeks along, the doctor found that her baby had stopped developing and no longer had a heartbeat, Arteaga told Buzzfeed News. Arteaga’s doctor presented her with two choices for a medical abortion: She could undergo a surgical procedure or take medication. Arteaga chose to pursue the latter, and her doctor gave her a prescription for misoprostol, a medication that can be used to terminate a pregnancy before 10 weeks.
But when she went to pick up the medication, she was “denied the prescription,” she wrote.
“I get it, we all have our beliefs,” Arteaga wrote. “But what [the pharmacist] failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted. This is something I have zero control over.”
In response to online outrage over Arteaga’s story, Walgreens wrote several tweets, saying: “Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. 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.”
Walgreens’ policy makes room for “conscience clauses” — the right for a health care provider or its employee to refuse dispensing a drug based on moral grounds, according to the National Conference for State Legislatures. These clauses have become popular in state legislatures after the Roe v. Wade decision on the constitutionality of states limiting access to abortion.
Arizona is one of six states in the U.S. with explicit laws allowing pharmacists to refuse dispensing medicated abortion or emergency contraception on moral or religious grounds.
“I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor,” Arteaga wrote. “I share this story because I wish no other women have to go [through] something like this at time when you are vulnerable and already suffering.”
Arteaga updated the post on Saturday and stated that she was able to access her prescription at a different Walgreens location, after the pharmacist transferred her medication. She wrote that she contacted the Walgreens corporate office and filed a complaint with the Arizona Board of Pharmacy.