DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and their client Rachel Peterson negotiated a new policy and program training with Meijer, after a pharmacist refused to fill Peterson’s prescription that was medically necessary to treat her miscarriage.
Listen to the ACLU teleconference held for media with Peterson to discuss this update and answer questions:
“My goal is to make sure no one has to endure the humiliation and horror I went through last year,” said Peterson. “This new policy sets a precedent and puts other pharmacies on notice: everyone has a right to their medication, and to receive it free from judgment.”
“As a woman, I feel that losing a pregnancy is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure. Women should be able to receive the medication they need from pharmacists with compassion and dignity. It is not the job of a pharmacist to accuse, speculate and shame a woman who is actively enduring a miscarriage. If this behavior is allowed to continue in the pharmaceutical field, women’s rights will suffer greatly. As women, we must educate and advocate for our medical rights. We have been in the dark for too long. It is time for us to take on active roles in our own medical care.”
“With more awareness and transparency around this issue, I hope that women can feel more comfortable coming forward if they have been denied proper and dignified care. You are not alone. You have people on your side.”
Meijer has agreed to make changes in its policies and training to ensure that all future customers will receive their prescriptions without undue delay and that no customer is treated as Rachel Peterson was.
Under Meijer’s new policies:
- If a customer calls in or presents a prescription to a pharmacist who has a religious objection to filling the prescription, a second pharmacist will take over and immediately fill the prescription.
- In the very rare instance that a second pharmacist is not present, the on-duty pharmacist will call the prescription into another nearby Meijer pharmacy, which will immediately deliver it to the original pharmacy. In most cases, it will take no more than 30 minutes or an hour to deliver the medication and the longest time it would take is two hours.
- Customers will receive their prescriptions seamlessly without knowing that a pharmacist had an objection and no Meijer employee will “shame” customers for taking a medication prescribed by their doctor.
- Further, Meijer is currently training all pharmacy staff on the new policies and new employees will be trained as part of their orientation.
In July 2018, a Meijer pharmacist in Petoskey refused to fill Peterson’s prescription, telling her that “as a good Catholic male” he could not “in good conscience fill the prescription.” Peterson’s prescription was crucial and timely medication to take to avoid a more invasive surgical procedure.
When the ACLU filed a complaint with Meijer about this demeaning incident, Meijer Pharmacy officials responded quickly and cordially. They collaborated with the ACLU to create a new policy that sets a standard that all pharmacies will follow to ensure that every patient gets their prescribed medication immediately and do not suffer humiliation or discrimination.
“We appreciate Meijer’s swift response to our complaint,” said Merissa Kovach, ACLU of Michigan Policy Strategist. “They changed their training and policies to ensure that all future Meijer Pharmacy customers will receive their prescriptions, period.”
“We are all entitled to our religious beliefs, but that does not give us the right to harm others. All women should be able to go to any pharmacy to obtain the medicine they need without fear of discrimination.”
The Meijer Vice President of Pharmacy also called Peterson personally to apologize for the mistreatment, and to explain the steps the pharmacy is taking to ensure this does not happen again.
Incidents like Peterson faced are not isolated. If this has happened to you at any pharmacy, the ACLU wants to know. Fill out a legal complaint here: https://action.aclu.org/legal-intake/submit-complaint-aclu-michigan
A recording of the call will be available at 2 p.m., along with background information, here: