Illinois action blog

Friday, November 16, 2007

Megan Kelly's story still resonates today

Last night I got to meet Megan Kelly at a great event hosted by NCJW members in Aurora. This summer NCJW launched a program called Plan A, which aims to ensure women have access to contraceptives.

Megan was the perfect speaker for this topic - you may remember her as one of the brave women who stood up to a pharmacist who refused to fill her prescriptions for birth control and Emergency Contraception (EC) in the summer of 2005. Here's how Megan retold it last night:

"The pharmacist, a woman, leaned toward me and said 'I can't fill this.' I thought they must be out of my birth control, but then she said, 'I can't fill this for moral reasons - I don't believe in it.' I couldn't believe it. I thought I must be on candid camera!"

Megan's initial shock gave way to outrage and she took her story public. In fact, she took it all the way to Congress where she testified in front of the U.S. House Small Business Committee. In her testimony Megan said, “Women should never be denied basic health care services by pharmacists who choose to impose their own beliefs on others.”

The Osco drug store in St. Charles that refused to fill Megan's prescriptions was charged $37,500 for violating a rule that requires all pharmacies in Illinois to dispense prescriptions for contraceptives without delay.

While women in Illinois are more protected from this type of discrimination now (thanks to women like Megan, who stood up to pharmacists who refused their prescriptions) this is still an extremely important issue for women and everybody else, too. If a pharmacist can stop a woman from getting her birth control, what's to stop him or her from refusing say, HIV treatments, or other drugs they may object to?

Just recently, a federal judge blocked Washington state's new rule requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception. A trial is scheduled for next October, but until the issue is resolved pharmacists in the state are allowed to refuse to fill a woman's prescription. While they are required to refer the woman to another pharmacy, this still creates an undue hassle and could create big problems for women in rural areas. This is no solution.

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire told the Seattle Times, "While this court decision weakens protections for victims of sexual assault, and interferes with a woman's right to choose, it also allows any patient to be denied their medication for no apparent reason."

Technorati tags: Megan Kelly, Pharmacist refusal, NCJW, Planned Parenthood Action Illinois,

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