Pharmacist refuses medicine to help woman complete a recent miscarriage citing religious reasons
The woman wanted to take the medicine as prescribed by her doctor but the pharmacist said he was 'a good Catholic male and that he couldn't in good conscience' give her the pills
A woman in Michigan was left heartbroken when a pharmacist, owing to his religious beliefs, outright refused to give her a prescription that would have helped her complete a miscarriage. 35-year-old Rachel Peterson was grieving the fact that she lost her unborn twins when she was pregnant in July and she chose to take the prescribed misoprostol to help her uterus discharge the fetal tissue so that it could prevent any lethal infections.
After she consulted a doctor, she and her husband Robby went to the Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey, Michigan, when they came across a pharmacist who refused to give her the prescribed medication.
The devastated woman told the Detroit Free Press: "He said that he was a good Catholic male and that he couldn't in good conscience give me this medication because it's used for abortions, and he could not prescribe that. When I divulged to him that the fetus was no longer viable, and that I needed to progress the situation further, he said, 'Well, that's your word and I don't believe you,' and he refused to fill it."
Peterson also said that she then asked the pharmacist to transfer the prescribed medication to another pharmacy nearby so that she could pick it up from there but he refused to do so. She and Robby had been on a weekend getaway to try and cope with the loss of both the babies at the time of the incident. They ended their trip after that and stopped at another Meijer location on their way back home.
Christina Fecher, a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company, said: "We recognize the right of a pharmacist to abstain from filling a prescription based on his or her religious beliefs, but the pharmacist is required to have another Meijer pharmacist fill the prescription or, if no other pharmacist is available at that time, to transfer the script to another pharmacy convenient to the customer."
Fecher did not say if there was any disciplinary action that was taken against the pharmacist. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a letter to Meijer on October 16 on behalf of the grieving woman when they found out about her incident.
Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the ACLU of Michigan, said: "I think it's very clear in this case that had Rachel been a man seeking this exact same medication for stomach ulcers, she wouldn't have been turned away for the same reason. So Rachel was denied this based on the personal beliefs of this pharmacist and then also because she's a woman."
Peterson also said that the incident took place at a time when she was at her lowest in life. She and Robby had been trying for a baby since January and were absolutely ecstatic when they found out that she was pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, there were complications and she found out that she miscarried one of the babies in June when she was nine weeks pregnant.
Only a few weeks after this, she found out that the other baby also miscarried because she has a bicornuate uterus, a condition in which the uterus is heart-shaped and can cause babies born this way to have birth defects.
Peterson's doctor then gave her three choices. She could either wait for the miscarriage to complete naturally, take medication to pass the miscarriage, or surgically remove the fetal tissue from the uterus. The couple made the choice to go with the first option with some hope that Peterson would complete the miscarriage naturally. The process, however, took longer than originally expected so the doctor prescribed misoprostol, with the brand specifically being Cytotec, so that she could prevent the risk of developing sepsis, which is a dangerous and fatal infection. It was at this point that she had the incident with the pharmacist who thought she was attempting to have an abortion.
She said: "I was really upset. I was angry too. When you're at one of the lowest moments in your life, you don't think someone would do that to you - especially to call you a liar and not be understanding or empathetic at all." Peterson called her mother, 57-year-old Nancy Bianchi, after her harrowing incident.
The furious mother told the Detroit Free Press: "She called me sobbing, just sobbing, and said he wouldn't fill the prescription. While I was talking to her, I was googling the Meijer pharmacy phone number. I was seething. Rachel was not only going through the worst thing in her life, but he was judging her and making her feel bad about that."
According to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, there have not been any formal complaints against the pharmacist so far. Peterson also said that she is telling her story so that others know their rights when they have to go get medication. She said: "I just want people to know that I'm doing this to make sure that people do not have to encounter the same situation that I did. It's just a basic human right. He is a medical professional, and he took an oath to take care of patients, and he failed to do that."