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ACLU is working with Meijer to resolve complaint after pharmacist allegedly denied woman medicine

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Mike Kalasnik
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says it is working with Meijer to resolve a complaint of gender discrimination against one of its pharmacists.

In a letter of complaint sent earlier this week the ACLU alleged a Meijer pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a woman’s miscarriage medication.

Merissa Kovach is with the ACLU of Michigan, which sent the complaint. She says the pharmacist refused to refer the woman to another pharmacist or pharmacy to get the prescription filled.

“He told her that in good conscious as a good Catholic male he would not fill her prescription and that her claim that she had already miscarried was just her word. He essentially called her a liar.”

The letter also alleges the woman had to drive three and a half hours to a Meijer in Ionia to have the prescription filled but the pharmacy “had a difficult time obtaining” the prescription from the Petoskey Meijer.

Kovach said the woman needed the medicine for her miscarriage - and the delay could have put her in danger.

“This was time sensitive medicine that she needed to take. If she did not receive the medicine on time she very likely could have to go through a more invasive procedure.”

According to Kovach, the medication could also be used to induce an abortion, induce labor, or treat stomach ulcers.

She said the ACLU has an end goal in mind.

“Right now we’re focusing on the complaint and hoping Meijer responds by instituting a policy or enforcing a policy that makes sure a patient, any patient gets the medication they need on time.”

Kovach said it’s likely that refusals like this happen more often than is reported. And, she said, Michigan law allows a pharmacist to refuse care based on religious grounds.

In a written statement, officials with Meijer said it could not speak on the specific instance. But, the statement says, Meijer pharmacists may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs - so long as the prescription is either filled by another pharmacist or sent to another pharmacy.

Kovach said the ACLU is working with Meijer to ensure that all customers get their prescribed medication without delay. She said the ACLU will quote “consider our options” if it’s not satisfied with Meijer’s response.

You can read Meijer’s full statement below:

“Meijer has received a letter from the ACLU regarding a complaint that one of our pharmacists inappropriately handled a refusal to fill a prescription.  We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and while we cannot discuss this specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws that protect health information, we want all of our pharmacy customers to know of our practices regarding a pharmacists’ ability to refuse to fill a prescription.  Our practice is based upon our overwhelming concern for patient safety and care, balanced with the need to accommodate the religious beliefs of our employees.  A pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs.  However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store.  If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them.  This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines.  A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure, is in violation of our process.”

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Merissa Kovach of the ACLU as Merissa Kobach.