What a Pill

A Denton pharmacy's moralizing leaves Buzz feeling queasy

A while ago, Buzz came across a T-shirt stenciled with the words "Jesus loves you. Everybody else thinks you're an asshole." We didn't buy it, but now we wish we had, because then we could wrap it up and send it off to the fine, morally upstanding pharmacists at the Eckerd drugstore on University Drive in Denton. They've earned it.

Here's how: Last week pharmacists at the store refused to fill a woman's prescription for "morning-after pills," a form of birth control that can be taken up to 72 hours after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Essentially a high dose of hormones found in regular birth-control pills, one of the drug's potential means of working is to prevent a newly fertilized egg from implanting itself in the womb. Hard-core abortion opponents--who apparently include the Eckerd's pharmacists among their ranks--call that "chemical abortion."

The woman in this case, by the way, had been raped. A doctor at her rape exam wrote the prescription. The pharmacists knew this; they had been told so by a male friend of the woman (Buzz's tipster), who had ferried her to a number of drugstores in Denton looking for one that had the pills in stock. The Eckerd had it, but because of their own moral objections, pharmacists there refused to fill a lawful prescription for an innocent woman in dire need.

The woman's friend, who asked not to be identified, said a woman behind the counter first told him the prescription could be filled in two minutes. Time was pressing, and he had explained the need to her. About 20 minutes later, a pharmacist--not a woman--summoned him to a window. "This medication is designed to end life, and I cannot abide by that. There are three of us here, and we all agree on the issue," the pharmacist said, according to the friend, who at that point began yelling loudly.

Lovely. Score one for the Religious Right and book that fine trio a suite in the bosom of Abraham. Buzz figures that anyone who could ignore basic human decency and professional and medical ethics to further victimize an already traumatized woman in the name of moral certitude must be bound for glory. Or something.

The sooner the better.

We suppose they could have really gotten right with God if they had gone to the car where the woman sat weeping while her friend sought the pill, slapped her and called her Jezebel. What was she thinking, going out and getting herself raped and putting those fine pill peddlers in the awkward position of having to dispense an FDA-approved medicine? Hussy.

Now, if you are a rational person, you may be thinking that Buzz has been taken in by some sort of left wing-inspired urban legend or hoax. Sounds loopy, right? Afraid not. We called the pharmacy in Denton, but the person who answered the phone referred all questions to the company's corporate offices. Joan Gallagher, vice president of corporate communications for Eckerd, confirmed that the company was reviewing the situation, but could not discuss specifics. "Our pharmacists are obligated to comply with our policies and procedures," she said. "We do not support the pharmacists' refusal to fill a prescription based on any religious, political or moral convictions, and any pharmacists who would refuse to comply with that policy would be subject to disciplinary action."

Gay Dodson, executive director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy in Austin, says pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for medical reasons--for instance, if a patient is given orders for two incompatible drugs. But "there's no conscience clause in Texas law that would allow a pharmacist to refuse under moral grounds," she says.

Yet Dodson also said that this is the first case like this she's heard of. It's likely that if the board were called upon to act, it would simply advise the pharmacist of the law.

As for the woman in question, she finally got her pill from a Walgreens pharmacy across the street, her friend said. That's W-A-L-G-R-E-E-N-S...a fine place to shop for all your pharmaceutical needs in Denton, if you get our drift.

 
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