After learning her unborn baby was no longer developing, Nicole Arteaga didn’t think things could get worse—until they did.
Arteaga, 35, of Arizona, was told by her doctor that she had two options: She could undergo a procedure in the hospital called a dilation and curettage (D&C) that would remove the fetus or take Misoprostol, a prescription drug that would help her body miscarry the pregnancy that was no longer viable.
Nicole wrote on Facebook that she thought about it and then decided to take the drug. So, she took her 7-year-old with her to her local Walgreens to pick up the medication—and her pharmacist wouldn’t give it to her.
“I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist explaining my situation in front of my 7 year old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs,” she said. “I get it we all have our beliefs. But what he 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.”
Nicole pointed out that she really wanted this baby, and the pharmacist was making an already gut-wrenching situation even worse. “He has no idea what its like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so,” she wrote. “If you have gone thru a miscarriage you know the pain and emotional roller it can be.”
Nicole says she left the drug store “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.”
“I am unsure where Walgreens draws the lines with their pharmacist but does this mean he denies women the right to birth control and morning after pill, and what’s the stance with fertility drugs,” she continued.
Technically this wasn’t illegal: Arizona has a state law that allows pharmacies, hospitals, doctors, and other health professionals to refuse to participate in providing abortion medication, emergency contraception, or anything that could prevent fertilization (so, you could even be refused birth control pills in the state).
Worth noting: A pharmacist or other healthcare professional must return your written prescription to you if they refuse to fill it, per the law.
Nicole updated her post to say that she later received an email notification that her prescription was ready at a location across town. Her pharmacist ultimately transferred it to another location after she left in tears.
“Yesterday morning I went to my see my doctor for his help in making sure that pharmacist at the second location would give it me,” she said. “I picked up my prescription from that Walgreens with no problems.” Nicole also says she spoke to a store manager “who did not seem happy about what had happened.”
She’s also contacted the Walgreens corporate office and filed a complaint with the Arizona Board of Pharmacy, which licenses pharmacists in her state.
Walgreens responded to tweets about the incident, 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.
“I share this story because I wish no other women have to go thru something like this at time when you are vulnerable and already suffering,” Nicole wrote. “I am in left in disbelief on how this can happen? How is this okay? I can’t be the only one who has gone thru this.”
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