Plan B: Educate pharmacists. Shouldn’t that have been Plan A?

On Friday, when I went into the pharmacy to pick up kitty meds, I was pleasantly surprised to see a big sign at the end of the counter: “Emergency Contraception Available Here”.

“Hey, that’s great! I’m really glad you’re carrying that!” I smiled at the pharmacist, who nodded casually. “Did you know,” I went on, “that WalMart is carrying it but allowing pharmacists to opt out? Crazy, right?”

The pharmacist shrugged. “I know a lot of people – friends of mine – who won’t dispense it. People are people, you know?”

I was taken aback. “But . . . do they dispense other contraception?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then they must not understand how Plan B works. It’s a contraceptive – it prevents ovulation. It’s not an abortifacient.”

He shrugged again. “Each to their own.”

If I hadn’t had a sick cat in the car, I would have stayed to battle this out. As it was, I paid for the medication and left, fuming.

Each to their own? Each who? Obviously, not women trying to prevent pregnancy. Each of them is subject to the caprice and ignorance of self-righteous pharmacists.

What would WalMart do if they had a pharmacist who happened to be a Christian Scientist, and refused to dispense any medication on moral grounds? Target was asked that very question about their own “opt-out” policy, and apparently responded that “The emergency contraceptive Plan B is the only medication for which this policy applies.”

So this actually has nothing to do with upholding pharmacists’ right to choose and everything to do with denying women’s right to choose? Thanks for clearing that up, Target!

I swear, this is almost enough to make me pay $80,000 for four years of pharmacy school, graduate, go to work for WalMart, and then refuse to dispense Viagra.


16 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    A said,

    This is one of the reasons I haven’t shopped at WalMart since 2003. I sent them an email detailing the reasons; they declined to respond. I guess that’s one of the little luxuries a company can afford when they have more money than God.

    (I’d come to your graduation from pharmacy school!)

  2. 2

    MonkeyGurrl said,

    D’ya think the pharmacist knew what you were talking about? Or even appreciated the distinction? Perhaps he was a pharm-tech. I don’t know. I can’t imagine spending that kinda money on an education and not knowing (or caring) about the difference between a contraception and an abortifacient.

    Then again, some of the best-educated folks I know are republican.

  3. 3

    uccellina said,

    No, this was definitely the pharmacist. And he definitely knew what I was talking about. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt as long as I can (ask Husband; it’s a habit of mine that infuriates him), but there was no doubt on this one.

  4. 4

    SilliGirl said,

    Hey there, Uccellina! As preggo as I am these days, I couldn’t summon the mental energy to join in on any of your MRA posts, but I just wanted to let you know I am totally appreciating the..ah…”heavier” topics of late. Works my brain a little, y’know? (Plus, some of those comments were ridiculous.)

    Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve commented, so I just wanted to say keep up the good fight, add a dash of knittery and kittery once in a while, and I miss you!

    I’ll call you when the babe arrives.

  5. 5

    from away said,

    I keep wishing some self-righteous wacko pharmacist would decide that something like Lipitor is messing with god’s will / letting sinners off the hook, too, and refuse to dispense it. Hmph.

  6. 6

    Kristin said,

    That’s what I keep saying! Actually I said it here. Fuck them is basically the most intelligent thing I have to say about that.

  7. 7

    Laurie Ann said,

    Can they opt out of dispensing Ortho Tricyclen too? Absolutely ridiculous.

  8. 8

    Celeste said,

    Pharmacy school isn’t a 4 year degree; some schools take 5 years and some take 6. You would think the extra time would go towards better understanding, but apparently all it does is give them extra time to navel-gaze about who they will or won’t serve.

    Imagine if your dentist wouldn’t give a filling to somebody they saw eating candy. “Sucrose-eater, you DESERVE a hole in your tooth!”. Imagine if emergency room doctors got to decide they won’t patch up the kid wearing gang colors, or if oncologists got to refuse to treat smokers on the moral grounds that “they should have known better”. What is the recourse of an obstetrician who sees that a baby is headed down the cosmic gumball chute into a really dysfunctional family–tell the woman not to push, ever?

    It kind of makes me think that pharmacists shouldn’t be salaried–they should be paid for piecework by the number of prescriptions they fill. Refusal to do their work results in not getting paid. People count on them to do their jobs, not to moralize and judge.

  9. 9

    Mom said,

    Yes, yes! If God had meant us to have the arteries of twenty year olds and the libidos of same, he would have made that happen. That’s also why I never fly in airplanes (flying’s for the birds), ride in cars (wheels are unnatural, never mind the internal combustion engine), use binoculars (I’m not supposed to have the eyesight of a pigeon or a hawk), or cut my hair (an annual molting season is good enough for me).

  10. 10

    miss kendra said,

    this made me laugh- well, not the situation. the viagra thing.


  11. 11

    Hyphen said,

    I say you should change your pharmacy. And write a letter to your old one, and their corporate headquarters, stating that you no longer have faith in their professional ability to handle yoru medications, due to their pharmacists complete and total ignorance about legal, FDA approved medications.

  12. 12

    Mom said,

    I doubt that any of the chains will be much better.

  13. 13

    nora said,

    This stuff makes me crazy.

  14. 14

    ladylinoleum said,

    Love your last statement. Hear hear!

  15. 15

    zarafa said,

    happened upon this post through a strange set of seach words but the title on the google search sucked me in….

    as a pharmacy student, i thought i’d weigh in here. Contrary to what Celeste said, there are no 5 year pharmacy programs. They are either 6 years or, like my program, 4 more years AFTER you get your bachelor’s degree. However, like Celeste said, more education doesn’t always mean wiser pharmacists apparently.

    i have to admit, everytime i dispense plan b to a panicked looking couple, i do a little happy dance inside. not because they are panicking, of course, but because they can do something about it. i too am infuriated by any pharmacist that thinks they have the right to not dispense a medication that is safe, legal, and no different than dispensing birth control. and still i hear my classmates (that’s right… young, intellingent, educated people) refer to it as an abortifacient. and it takes everything i have not to resort to physical injury sometimes. i went on a rant about it sometime back on my blog too. it saddens me that we took such a great step forward in getting FDA approval to go over the counter and then the chain pharmacies kick us right back by allowing their employees to make judgements that are not theirs to make.

  16. 16

    Emily said,

    I love what you have to say here, I totally agree with you and I just linked to your blog in mine (it’s a group blog, mostly funny stuff, but I write the trivia column) and I can’t help but get on my high horse a few times a month! Thanks for being a member of the smart liberal elite!

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