A woman with an unviable pregnancy went into a US pharmacy last Thursday in order to pick up her prescription medication. The drug prescribed was misoprostol, used to induce or speed up a miscarriage.
In Nicole Mone's case, it was needed to speed up a miscarriage that was inevitable. She had been told by her doctors that her 9-week-old fetus had stopped developing. The drug would induce a miscarriage to expel the fetus. If this doesn't happen naturally and stays inside the woman, it puts her at risk of serious infection.
However, when she went to Walgreens, the pharmacist refused to fill her prescription on "ethical" grounds, despite her circumstances.
The pharmacist used a "conscience clause", which gives medical professionals, pharmacists, and health providers the right to refuse abortion services on moral or religious grounds. Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, and South Dakota all have laws stating that pharmacists can legally refuse to dispense emergency contraception on this basis.
"I get it, we all have our beliefs," Nicole Mone wrote in a widely-seen post on Facebook. "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. If you have gone through a miscarriage you know the pain and emotional roller [coaster] it can be.
"I left Walgreens in tears, ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor."
The pharmacist likely acted within the law, even though in these circumstances the fetus was not viable. Walgreens responded when angry customers called for a boycott.
Commenters online were unimpressed.
Nicole was able to get drugs she needed from another pharmacist, though the delay put her at more risk of complications. If she had been in a more rural location, and unable to get the medication she needed, she could have been in even more danger.
"These restrictions on reproductive rights don’t affect women equally. Poor women and less well-educated women are affected by them much more. These restrictions are at best an annoyance, and at worst, they really limit access."
Currently, the law states that a medical professional can refuse a prescription on moral grounds but they also must refer the patient to another medical professional instead. The Trump administration is hoping to expand the opt-out clause. If it comes into force, pharmacists may even be able to refuse to give information to women on how to get birth control, let alone have to provide it to customers.
Reports of pharmacies refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control or emergency contraception have surfaced in half the US states, the National Women's Law Center reports.