PEORIA, Ariz. (CNN) – An Arizona woman has criticized Walgreens on social media, saying that a pharmacist at the chain refused to fill her prescription for a medicine prescribed to induce miscarriage after she was told that her 9-week-old fetus had stopped developing.
Walgreens said that it allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription “for which they have a moral objection,” but that they are required to “refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.”
The woman, Nicole Mone Arteaga, said that she was later able to pick up her prescription from another Walgreens store.
In a one-star Yelp review of the Walgreens branch in Peoria, where she initially tried to collect her medication on Thursday, Arteaga said that she had dropped off her prescription on Wednesday and went to collect the medication the next day. She said that her doctor had been monitoring her pregnancy closely due to previous miscarriages.
“Each week, I went for my ultrasound praying to see progress and hear the sound of little heartbeat,” Arteaga wrote in her review. “Unfortunately, development isn’t happening and my body is slowly getting ready to miscarry. My [doctor] gave me two choices: D&C or a prescription that will help induce bleeding and discharge in the comfort of my home.”
D&C, also known as dilation and curettage, is a surgical procedure to remove tissue from the uterus. In the case of a fetus failing to develop, it is performed to prevent infection or heavy bleeding.
Walgreens said in a statement that it is looking into the matter “to ensure our patients’ needs are handled properly.”
“After learning what happened, we reached out to the patient and apologized for how the situation was handled. To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner,” Walgreens said in a statement.
“I went to pick up my medication at my local Walgreens only to be denied the prescription I need,” Arteaga explained in a Facebook post on Friday. “I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist, explaining my situation in front of my 7-year-old and five customers standing behind, only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs.”
“I get it, we all have our beliefs,” Arteaga continued. “But what he failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted. This is something I have zero control over.”
Arteaga described her miscarriage as an emotional roller coaster, and said that the pharmacist had “no idea what it’s like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so.”
“I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles, but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor,” Arteaga said. Arteaga also said she would not usually share such a story, but did not want other women to have the same experience “when you are vulnerable and already suffering.”
In an update to her online post, Arteaga said that she later received an email notification that her prescription was ready at a different Walgreens location. She said that she collected it after first revisiting her doctor to ensure that he could help her fill the script.
Arteaga said that she spoke to a store manager “who did not seem happy about what had happened” and also contacted the Walgreens corporate office. “I have filed a complaint with the Arizona Board of Pharmacy,” Arteaga said. “At this time, I have done what I can to report the situation. Thank you to those who have shown love and support.”
By early Monday, Arteaga’s post had been shared more than 30,000 times and liked more than 55,000 times.
Arizona is one of six states where pharmacists can refuse dispensing emergency contraception drugs. Under the state law, Arizona pharmacies must require employees to notify them of drugs that they would decline to fill because of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“On receiving this notification, the pharmacy must attempt to accommodate the employee if the accommodation can be made without causing undue hardship to the pharmacy or its customers,” the law says. If customers ask for drugs not in stock, the pharmacy must make efforts to ensure the script is filled in a timely fashion.
“A pharmacy must treat each customer with respect and dignity, make good faith efforts not to embarrass or demean the customer and attempt to ensure a seamless delivery of prescription services,” the law states.
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