A recent story detailed an interaction between a customer and a Walgreens pharmacist where, due to the pharmacist’s deeply held personal beliefs, the customer was denied a prescription for a birth control drug and made to go to a different pharmacy to have it filled. It’s important to note that Walgreens did not refuse to fill the prescription at all; their policy simply accommodates individual pharmacists who refuse to do their job and “allow” customers to fill their prescriptions at another Walgreens location where, presumably, a different pharmacist would be willing to fill it. Another note: this isn’t just a Walgreens thing; their policy reflects laws established at the state level allowing businesses to exercise discretion for conscientious objectors based on the employees’ moral or religious beliefs. In order to confirm the veracity of the story, I wrote an e-mail to Walgreens’ customer relations department and got the following response:
To fairly resolve these situations, and where allowed by state law, we believe it’s reasonable to respect the individual pharmacist’s beliefs by not requiring them to fill a prescription they object to on moral or religious grounds. We also believe it’s reasonable to meet our obligation to the patient by having another pharmacist at the store fill the prescription. If another pharmacist is not on duty, we will arrange to have the prescription filled at a nearby pharmacy before the patient leaves the store.
This is problematic for a number of reasons and I’d like to detail them here.