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Religious Tolerance logo

Emergency Contraception:

Part 2 of two parts

Wal-Mart's initial refusal to stock
EC -- the "morning-after" Pill

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Reactions to the Wal-Mart decision:

Judie Brown of the American Life League stated:

"They are to be congratulated for their decision and commended for sticking to it."  It "may save human lives."

On their web site, they also ask that Wal-Mart discontinue selling oral contraceptives.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America said that Wal-Mart:

"... deserts women faced with reproductive health emergencies." 14

Marie Griffin, editor of Drug Store News commented that retailers have an obligation to not withhold drugs that doctors have decided that a woman needs:

"They [Wal-Mart] should not get involved in the sacred relationship between a physician and patient." 14

Mr. DuPlantis, president of Pharmacists for Life International appeared to believe that Preven prevents implantation of the zygote (fertilized ovum). He said:

"Regarding Preven, based on the way we feel that life begins at fertilization, it's an abortifacient mechanism." 14

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Results of the Wal-Mart decision (as viewed by some pro-life groups):

For those pro-life groups that believe that pregnancy and personhood begin at conception, and who also reject the findings of medical research and believe that the morning-after pills may inhibit implantation, EC can work as an abortifacient - i.e. it is a medication that induces an abortion. Thus any restriction on their sale will reduce the number of abortions.

In many rural areas of the United States, the Wal-Mart decision will restrict women's access to emergency contraception. It is likely that more women will not make the necessary time and effort to travel to another town or city to obtain the morning-after pill. This will probably cause a noticable increase in unwanted pregnancies, of which about 40% end in abortion.

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Overview about Wal-Mart in Canada: 

Results of the Wal-Mart decision (as viewed by medical professionals, pro-choice groups, etc.):

As noted above, Wal-Mart once restricted women's access to emergency contraception. Fewer women who have had unprotected sex were then able to obtain and use the pill. The number of unwanted pregnancies probably increase. This will, in turn, generate an increase in the U.S. abortion rate because almost half of all unanticipated pregnancies end in abortion.

An abortion performed in a clinic or hospital is far safer than a continued pregnancy. However, infections can occur; this can cause sterility and (in very rare instances) death. In those states where parental notification or permission is required for teens to obtain an abortion, some young women are seeking illegal abortions, where risks are considerably higher. It is thus inevitable that restricting access to emergency contraception will result in deaths to women.

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Further developments 1997 to 2006:

bullet 1997-MAY: Wal-Mart boycott proposed: The Kaiser reproductive health report reported that Planned Parenthood of New York City "has informed Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that it may orchestrate a boycott of its pharmacies" because of its ban on Preven. Their president, Alexander Sanger wrote: "I strongly urge Wal-Mart to immediately re-evaluate and reverse its decision to not stock, order or dispense emergency contraception under the brand name Preven." 6 The threatened boycott never materialized.
bullet 1997-APR: Kosovo refugees: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Planned parenthood Federation of America announced that they had sent reproductive health supplies (including emergency contraceptives) to help Kosovo refugees who are frequently the victims of rape. Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life in the Vatican said that use of emergency contraception is "tantamount to abortion...it was important to distinguish between the act of violence suffered and the reality of new human beings who have begun their life" 9
bullet State laws: Bills have been initiated in Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Dakota to allow pharmacists to refuse to fill subscriptions if they conflict with their personal creed. The Louisiana bill defines personal creed as "a system of religious beliefs and precepts [that] a person holds with the strength of religious views and conviction."
bullet Pharmacist option: Dr. Leon Speroff wrote in an article in OB/GYN Clinical Alert: "I believe that most of us would agree that pharmacists should have the opportunity to remove themselves from an action they cannot morally support. But at the same time, the right of the patient to obtain legally approved medication must be protected."
bullet 1999-MAY: Second boycott: Women Leaders Online suggest that people avoid buying stuff from Wal-Mart, to keep a record of how much money they have diverted from Wal-Mart, and then send them an Email at letters@wal-mart.com with a message such as:

"This week, I spent $134.23 at stores other than Wal-Mart. I made a business decision not to patronize Wal-Mart for these purchases, since your decision not to sell Emergency Contraception made it clear that you did not want my business, nor that of other women. If you change your minds and start providing the medicine women need, please let me know." 13

bullet 2006-FEB-14: MA: Pharmacy board orders Wal-Mart to honor Plan B prescriptions: Three women filed complaints with the Massachusetts Pharmacy Board, critical of Wal-Mart for failing to stock Plan B medication. It is the only emergency contraceptive approved by the FDA. The Board ordered Wal-Mart to fill prescriptions for Plan B. More details.
bullet 2006-FEB-17: Connecticut: Comptroller asks Wal-Mart to honor Plan B prescriptions: Apparently triggered by the Massachusetts developments, Nancy Wyman, the state comptroller of Connecticut, has asked Wal-Mart to stock emergency contraceptive in its 20 pharmacies in the state. More details.

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Should retailers have the right to not stock all products?

An editorial in the Opekika-Auburn News in east central Alabama expressed dismay at the 2006-FEB developments in Massachusetts. It states, in part:

"Pro-choice or pro-life is not the issue here. The issue here is the government dictating what we should consider as free enterprise. Wal-Mart, and any other retail store, should be able to carry any product it chooses just like it should be able to choose not to carry some products. The government should not be able to force a retailer to carry a product. When this happens, the government has a form of ownership, or control, over this retailer."

"Aren’t state-run industries signs of socialism or even communism? Is this what we want in America?"

"Imagine the government coming into your place of business and forcing you to sell certain products. It’s a form of socialism and it’s absurd to even think that the governing body of this nation that is supposed to be a free democracy would even consider such. How ironic it is that the pro-choice group would press to remove choice from a retailer."

"Wal-Mart is not denying women the ‘morning after’ pill. Wal-Mart is not restricting women from taking the pills. They just aren’t providing them at their locations. The pill can very well be purchased at many other retail stores that include pharmacy departments. Free enterprise is special. Let’s not begin to destroy it." 20

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Wal-mart reverses its decision; stores will stock Plan B pill across the U.S.:

A Wal-Mart spokesperson announced on 2006-MAR-03 that the company would start to stock EC in all its 3,700 pharmacies in the U.S. starting on MAR-20. Vice president Ron Chomiuk said:

"We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead. Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it."

They will continue their conscientious objection policy which allows any Wal-Mart or Sam's Club employee who feels uncomfortable dispensing this or any other prescription to refer customers to another pharmacy or pharmacist.

Andrew Grossman, executive director of union-backed campaign group WalMartWatch.com, said:

"We commend Wal-Mart for taking an important first step towards allowing women access to safe and legal medication."

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Wal-Mart receives letters from the public at: letters@wal-mart.com
  2. Religion Today, Current News summary, 1999-MAY-17
  3. A "Provider Attitudes towards ECPs" survey is at: http://www.path.org/
  4. "Action Alert," American Life League, at: http://www.all.org/
  5. "Maranatha Daywatch," daily summary of news headlines, 1999-MAY-5
  6. News report, Reuters/Buffalo News, 1999-MAY-15; cited in "Preven: Planned Parenthood may boycott Wal-Mart." See:  http://report.kff.org/ *
  7. Fox Report, 1999-APR-15, Fox News Channel. See: http://report.kff.org/ *
  8. "Preven: Wal-Mart's decision not to dispense product outrages women's groups." See:  http://report.kff.org/ *
  9. Article, Agence France Press, 1999-APR-13. See: http://report.kff.org/ *
  10. "Conscience clause: New Jersey pharmacist bill in the works." See: http://report.kff.org/ *
  11. Dr. Leon Speroff, Article, OB/GYN Clinical AlertOB/GYN Clinical Alert, 1998-DEC
  12. "Emergency Contraception: crisis at the pharmacy counter," at: http://report.kff.org/ *
  13. "Wal-Mart's Accounting," Women Leaders Online/Women Organizing for Change alert: 1999-MAY-28.
  14. Quoted in an article, New York Times, 1999-APR-16.
  15. The Canadian Pharmacists Association has a web site at: http://www.cdnpharm.ca/ 
  16. Tanya Talaga, "Morning-after pill Preven goes on sale in Canada," Toronto Star, 1999-NOV-11, Page A2.
  17. D.J. Morrow, "Policy on Prescription Orders at Wal-Mart Draws Praise." The New York Times, (1999-SEP-16), Page 10. as cited in "Fact sheet: Emergency contraception," Planned Parenthood, http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
  18. Jeff Sellers, "Deliver Us from Wal-Mart? Christians are among those sounding the alarm about the ethics of this retail giant. Are the worries justified?," Christianity Today, 2005-MAY.
  19. "Wal-Mart May Stock 'Emergency' Contraceptives," ConsumerAffairs.com, 2006-FEB-15, at: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/
  20. "Retailers have right not to stock all products," Opekika-Auburn News, 2006-FEB-17, at: http://www.oanow.com/
  21. "Wal-Mart decides to carry Plan B pill," Associated Press, 2006-MAR-05, at: http://www.usatoday.com
  22. "Wal-Mart to kill babies nationwide," Covenant News, 2006-MAR-06, at:  http://www.covenantnews.com

* Cited in Kaiser reproductive health reports.

 

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Copyright © 1999 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-JUN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson
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