ACLU: Meijer to change policies on prescriptions after miscarriage meds denial

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Rachel Peterson and her husband, Robby, with their rescue dogs Hector and Dikta at their home in Ionia.

Petoskey – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan says it has reached an agreement with Meijer on policy changes and training after a pharmacist at one of its Michigan retailers refused to fill a prescription to help a woman complete a miscarriage.

The ACLU said in a news release Thursday that the Midwestern retailer’s new policies include requiring a second pharmacist to immediately fill a prescription if another pharmacist has a religious objection. Customers also are to receive prescriptions without knowing about a pharmacist’s objection.

A pharmacist in the northern Michigan community of Petoskey, citing his religious beliefs, refused to fill Rachel Peterson’s prescription last July for misoprostol so she could accelerate a miscarriage and avoid infection.

Misoprostol is sometimes taken as part of a drug combination to induce abortion. Peterson later got the medication from another Meijer.

Peterson, 35, had a miscarriage in her first trimester while on vacation with her family in Petoskey. She said her doctor called in the prescription July 1 and told her the medication had to be taken quickly to avoid having to undergo a more invasive surgical procedure. 

An hour later, Peterson received a call from a pharmacist at the Meijer store on Lears, who told her "as a good Catholic male," he could not "in good conscience fill the prescription" because he believed it was her intention to use it to end a pregnancy. 

The pharmacist was removed from the company in October.

Meijer spokeswoman Christina Fecher said in an email that the retailer always is “focused on providing the best service to all” its “pharmacy patients, while also ensuring” pharmacists “work in a supportive environment.”

Peterson said her goal is to make sure no other woman has to "endure the humiliation and horror I went through last year."

“As a woman, I feel that losing a pregnancy is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure," Peterson said in a statement. "Women should be able to receive the medication they need from pharmacists with compassion and dignity. It is not the job of a pharmacist to accuse, speculate and shame a woman who is actively enduring a miscarriage.

Under Meijer’s new policies:

  • If a customer calls in or presents a prescription to a pharmacist who has a religious objection to filling the prescription, a second pharmacist will take over and immediately fill the prescription.
  • In the very rare instance that a second pharmacist is not present, the on-duty pharmacist will call the prescription into another nearby Meijer pharmacy, which will immediately deliver it to the original pharmacy. In most cases, it will take no more than 30 minutes or an hour to deliver the medication and the longest time it would take is two hours.
  • Customers will receive their prescriptions without knowing that a pharmacist had an objection and no Meijer employee will “shame” customers for taking a medication prescribed by their doctor. ​​​​​

“We appreciate Meijer’s swift response to our complaint,” said Merissa Kovach, ACLU of Michigan policy strategist. “They changed their training and policies to ensure that all future Meijer Pharmacy customers will receive their prescriptions, period.

“We are all entitled to our religious beliefs, but that does not give us the right to harm others," Kovach said. "All women should be able to go to any pharmacy to obtain the medicine they need without fear of discrimination.”

The Associated Press contributed.
Twitter: @SarahRahal_