Choosing to end a pregnancy is a tough choice for anyone. But for Nicole Mone, a woman from Arizona, it wasn’t much of a choice at all.
After an examination, she was notified by her doctor that the two-month-old fetus she was carrying had stopped developing.
A miscarriage was certain, so Mone was given two options for terminating the pregnancy: undergo a hospital procedure or take a prescription medicine. Mone opted for the prescription.
However, when she went to her local Walgreens in Peoria, Arizona (around 13 miles northwest of Phoenix), the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription, citing his own personal religious beliefs as the reason why he could not carry out the doctor’s orders.
“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,” Mone wrote on Facebook.
She continued, “I get it, we all have our beliefs. 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. He has no idea what it’s like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so.”
Mone certainly has a point. No matter what happened, the fetus she was carrying was going to die before it was born. Therefore, the pharmacist had no legitimate cause for denying the prescription. The objection that religious followers have toward abortives isn’t about the medicine itself—rather, their objection is predicated on the fact that the medicine is often used to kill a fetus that could have been born and become a healthy human.
Since there is no way that Mone’s fetus, which had stopped developing two months into the pregnancy, could have lived, the pharmacist had no reason to deny the prescription, religious or otherwise.
This story demonstrates why allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their personal moral beliefs is bad policy: without interviewing each customer and learning the individual circumstances that warranted the prescription, a pharmacist has no accurate way of determining the morality or immorality of the prescription.
Since conducting such interviews would incur extreme administrative costs for the pharmacy and great inconvenience for the customer, pharmacists have adopted a heuristic that assumes all abortives will be used to kill a fetus that could have become a human.
As Mone’s story demonstrates, however, this is not always the case; sometimes, abortives are used to end a pregnancy that could never have resulted in a human life. Thus, pharmacists should not be allowed to base the denial of prescriptions on their own ethical beliefs, since it is impractical (and perhaps impossible) to inform pharmacists to the extent that an accurate decision regarding the morality of a prescription could be made.
Walgreens’ policy allows a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription if it violates his or her moral beliefs, but the pharmacist is required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager in a timely manner so that it can still be filled.
In Mone’s case, the pharmacist did not simply hand the prescription over to the other pharmacist who was on duty at the time. Instead, the prescription was sent to a completely different store, where Mone later picked it up. She has since filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy, as well as Walgreens’ corporate office.