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Pharmacist accused of not filling birth control prescription

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque Walgreens is under fire, after a mother said a pharmacist wouldn’t fill her teenage daughter’s prescription because it was related to birth control.

What was supposed to be a typical prescription pick up at the Walgreens Pharmacy on Coors and Montano, turned into a mother’s fight for her daughter’s rights.

“A mother and her daughter who were discriminated against when they attempted to pick up a prescription related to the daughter’s birth control at a Walgreens pharmacy here in Albuquerque,” said Erin Armstrong, an ACLU Reproductive Rights Attorney.

It’s led to the ACLU filing a complaint against Walgreens. According to the complaint, in 2016 that mom tried to pick up a prescription of Misoprostol for her daughter. It’s a drug used to prepare patients for getting an IUD, a form of birth control.

However, when she tried to get that prescription filled, the pharmacist on duty denied her, stating personal reasons.

“None of us should have to worry when we go into a pharmacy that we might be turned away because of someone’s personal beliefs and not because of a medical reason,” said Armstrong.

It’s an incident that’s all too familiar to Susanne Koestner. She said it happened to her in 2012, at the Walgreens Pharmacy at Eubank and Central when she tried to get her birth control prescription filled.

“He said he wouldn’t fill it because of his religious beliefs,” said Koestner.

The ACLU also filed a complaint in 2012. Walgreens, at the time, said if filling a prescription went against an employee’s belief, another pharmacist would step in. Koestner said she’s disappointed that’s still not happening.

“It’s not about what our intent is with the medicine. That’s for our doctor and the patient to decide,” she said.

WISH-TV’s sister station KRQE did speak to the pharmacist accused of not filling the teen’s prescription. He told us he did not want to comment. He was only filling in that day, and works at the Walgreens in Espanola.

Walgreens sent a statement addressing the situation:

Our policy is to allow pharmacists and other employees to step away from completing a transaction to which they may have a moral objection, and requires the pharmacist or other employee to refer the transaction to another employee or manager on duty to complete the customer’s request.

The policy’s objective is to ensure that in these rare instances, patients – both male and female – are offered reasonable alternatives to access legally prescribed medications.

We have expressed our desire to work closely with the ACLU of New Mexico to address its concerns, and also as we review our policies and evaluate other services to help meet the needs of patients and customers.

Additionally, we have taken the opportunity to retrain all of our pharmacists and store leadership in New Mexico on policies and procedures relating to conscientious objection, to ensure that we’re providing the highest level of patient care and service.

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