For a PDF version of the fact sheet see below.
PRESCRIPTION CONTRACEPTION IS BASIC HEALTH CARE FOR WOMEN
- Family planning is central to good health care for women. Access to contraception is critical to preventing unintended pregnancies and to enabling women to control the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age. A woman who wants only two children must use contraception for roughly three decades of her life. Also, women rely on prescription contraceptives for a range of medical purposes in addition to birth control, such as regulation of cycles and endometriosis.
- Emergency contraception (EC), also known as the morning after pill, is an FDA-approved form of contraception that prevents pregnancy after sexual intercourse. EC is a time-sensitive medication that has great potential to prevent unintended pregnancies. Currently, there are several options for emergency contraception available, one that requires a prescription and three that are available without a prescription for individuals 17 and older.
REFUSALS TO DISPENSE CONTRACEPTION ARE INCREASING
- Reports of pharmacist refusals to fill prescriptions for birth control—or provide EC to individuals who do not require a prescription—have surfaced in at least twenty-four states across the nation, including: AZ, CA, DC, GA, IL, LA, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NH, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, TN, TX, VA, WA, WV, WI.
- These refusals to dispense prescription contraceptives or provide EC are based on personal beliefs, not on legitimate medical or professional concerns. The same pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives because of their personal beliefs often refuse to transfer a woman’s prescription to another pharmacist or to refer her to another pharmacy. These refusals can have devastating consequences for women’s health.
- Despite the fact that three brands of EC are available without a prescription to certain individuals, refusals based on personal beliefs are still a problem. Non-prescription EC must be kept behind the counter, so individuals seeking it must interact with pharmacists or other pharmacy staff who may have personal beliefs against providing the drug.
- Some examples of refusals in the pharmacy:
- November 2010: Adam Drake attempted to purchase non-prescription EC at a Walgreens in Houston, Texas and was turned away, despite the fact that the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved that brand of EC for sale to men and women aged seventeen and older.
- March 2010: A pro-life pharmacy refusing to stock or dispense contraceptives in Chantilly, Virginia closed due to lack of business. When it opened in October 2008, staff at the pharmacy refused to provide referrals or help individuals find contraception elsewhere.
- January 2010: A mother of two in Montclair, California went to her local CVS to purchase EC after she and her fiancé experienced a birth control failure. The pharmacist refused to dispense EC to her, even though it was in stock, and told her to “come back in two and a half days,” at which point it would no longer be effective.
- May 2007: In Great Falls, Montana, a 49-year-old woman who used birth control to treat a medical condition went to her local pharmacy to fill her latest prescription. She was given a slip of paper informing her that the pharmacy would no longer fill any prescriptions for birth control. When she called back to inquire about the policy change, the owner of the pharmacy told her that birth control was “dangerous” for women.
- January 2007: In Columbus, Ohio, a 23-year-old mother went to her local Wal-Mart for EC. The pharmacist on staff “shook his head and laughed.” She was told that even though the store stocked EC, no one on staff would sell it to her. She had to drive 45 miles to find another pharmacy that would provide her with EC.
- December 2006: In Seattle, Washington, a 25-year-old woman went to her local Rite-Aid to get non-prescription EC after she and her fiancé experienced a birth control failure. The pharmacist told her that although EC was in stock, he would not give it to her because he thought it was wrong. The woman had to repeatedly insist that the pharmacist find her another pharmacy in the area that would provide her with EC.
- January 2006: In Northern California, a married mother of a newborn baby experienced a birth control failure with her husband. Her physician called in a prescription for EC to her regular pharmacy, but when she went to pick it up, the pharmacist on duty not only refused to dispense the drug, which was in stock, but also refused to enter the prescription into the pharmacy’s computer so that it could be transferred elsewhere.
- January 2005: In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a mother of six went to her local Walgreens with a prescription for emergency contraception. The pharmacist refused to fill the prescription and berated the mother in the pharmacy’s crowded waiting area, shouting “You’re a murderer! I will not help you kill this baby. I will not have the blood on my hands.” The mother left the pharmacy mortified and never had her prescription filled. She subsequently became pregnant and had an abortion.
- April 2004: In North Richland Hills, Texas, a 32-year-old mother of two went to her local CVS for her regular birth control prescription refill. The pharmacist refused to refill her prescription because of his personal beliefs. The pharmacist said he would not fill the prescription because oral contraceptives are “not right” and “cause cancer.”
- January 2004: In Denton, Texas, a rape survivor seeking EC was turned away from an Eckerd pharmacy by three pharmacists, who refused to fill the time-sensitive prescription due to their religious beliefs. The pharmacists’ refusal put the survivor in danger of becoming pregnant due to the rape.
THE LEGAL LANDSCAPE: WHAT GOVERNS THE PRACTICE OF PHARMACY?
- The laws governing pharmacists vary from state to state. Pharmacists must abide by state laws and regulations, which are written by the state legislature and the state Pharmacy Board.
- The laws and regulations in most st