Walgreens officials will review the pharmacy’s policy on dispensing contraception amid allegations that the chain’s employees have been breaking FDA guidelines. Pharmacists in at least three different Walgreens locations have refused to sell common contraceptives to their customers, citing their personal objections to birth control — a practice the company’s executives say they won’t allow to continue.
According to the ACLU, Walgreens locations in Alabama and Georgia denied men the right to purchase emergency contraception for their female partners, even though it is legal for both men and women over the age of 17 to buy the morning after pill without a prescription. And in addition to withholding Plan B, an employee at one of Walgreens’ New Mexico branches also refused to fill a woman’s prescription for a popular type of oral birth control.
After the ACLU criticized the company for its discriminatory practices, Walgreens released a statement promising to provide additional training on their contraception policy to their store personnel. “To balance the needs of our pharmacists and our customers, Walgreens has developed appropriate policies and procedures for our pharmacies to assure that these prescriptions, for example, birth control, are handled as efficiently as other prescriptions without imposing any burden on the customer,” the official statement explained.
Walgreens isn’t the first pharmacy chain to encounter this issue with their employees. Pharmacists at CVS and Rite Aid have also refused to dispense Plan B to male customers. And religious pharmacists in Illinois have fought for their right to withhold customers’ prescriptions based on their own personal beliefs about contraception.
Medical professionals suggest that some of the stigma surrounding emergency contraception — which does not actually induce abortion, although the anti-choice community continues to perpetrate that myth — could stem from the fact that the Obama administration has restricted Plan B for Americans under the age of 17. Even though the morning after pill is safer than aspirin, and both the FDA as well as major pediatric groups support making it more widely available, the current federal policy imposes additional barriers that could prevent some adolescents from accessing the contraception they need.