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Last week, Nicole Arteaga of Peoria, Arizona received the devastating news from her doctor that her baby's development had stopped and that pregnancy would end in a miscarriage. Given the option of either a D&C or prescription medication, she chose to go with the prescription. Then, like all normal people do when they get a prescription, she went to a pharmacy to have it filled.

Unfortunately for her, Brian Hrenuic -- the pharmacist at the Walgreens she went to -- refused to give her that prescription, because he opposed it on "moral grounds."


In a Facebook posting published on Saturday night, Arteaga wrote:

I hadn't planned on telling anyone outside our immediate family but two months we were surprised to find out I was pregnant. After a previous miscarriage the doctor had been monitoring me weekly. Unfortunately on Tuesday we found out the baby's development had stopped and I ultimately will have a miscarriage. Dr gave me two options D&C or prescription medication. I opted for prescription. Last night I went to pick up my medication at my local Walgreens only to be denied the prescription I need. 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. 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 its like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so. If you have gone thru a miscarriage you know the pain and emotional roller 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. I am unsure where Walgreens draws the lines with their pharmacist but does this mean he denies women the right to birth control and morning after pill, and what's the stance with fertility drugs. I share this story because I wish no other women have to go thru something like this at time when you are vulnerable and already suffering. I am in left in disbelief on how this can happen? How is this okay? I can't be the only one who has gone thru this

It shouldn't have mattered why Arteaga needed the medication. It shouldn't have mattered that this was a wanted pregnancy. That was her damn personal business, not the pharmacist's. Whether or not the pregnancy was wanted, Walgreen's should have given her the damn meds. In this case, there were two other pharmacists working at the time, but Hrenuic refused to pass the buck to them. Later on, Arteaga's husband stopped by the Walgreens to try to explain the situation again, and Hrenuic was still unmoved.

"He wasn't compassionate about it," J.R. Arteaga said. "He didn't seem to care what we were going through already."

Rather, he sent her prescription to another Walgreens entirely, where she was later able to get it filled with no problem.

According to a statement put out by Walgreens in regards to Arteaga's situation, their official policy is that pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription for moral reasons, but they have to get another pharmacist or a manager to fill that prescription for the customer. Clearly, that is not what happened here. If Hreniuc was refusing to follow company policy here, he should be fired. Hell, he should be fired for his treatment of Arteaga and her husband alone.

It's fine to have morals. Have all the morals you want. But if your morals prevent you from doing your job, then perhaps you should not have that job to begin with. For instance, if you are morally opposed to being naked in public, being a stripper is probably not a good job for you. If you are morally opposed to people eating meat, perhaps you should reconsider that butcher shop gig.

If you are a pharmacist and you are opposed, morally, to filling certain types of medications, perhaps you should consider another line of work in which this is not your job. Welding, for example. No one is going to ask you to fill a prescription that violates your morals if you are a welder. Or if you have literally any other possible job on the planet.

Unsurprisingly, it is not a mere coincidence that there are so many pharmacists going around refusing to fill these kinds of prescriptions. There are a variety of organizations meant to encourage Christians to join the profession and use it as a way of spreading their beliefs. On their website, the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International states its goals as:

  • Provide Godly encouragement and fellowship among like-minded professionals
  • Challenge and promote spiritual growth of members
  • Advance student chapter ministries to strengthen and equip student pharmacists
  • Encourage the advancement of knowledge and ethics in practice
  • Promote evangelism and the integration of faith into practice
  • Provide support and opportunities for Christian service and outreach

  • You know what it's your pharmacist's job to do? Fill your prescriptions. You know what it is not your pharmacist's job to do? Evangelize to you. If people want to be evangelized to, surely they can just open the door when the Mormons show up, instead of quietly pretending to not be home until they go away. No one is going to Walgreens to get converted, they are going there to get their prescriptions and to stare blankly at the As Seen On TV section for like 20 minutes without buying anything.

    While it is now pretty much my entire job to give my opinion to people, back when I worked in fancy lady retail, the only opinions I was supposed to be sharing was whether or not a pair of jeans made someone's ass look good, or if a dress needed a belt. It was not my place to morally object to people buying $600 dresses while there were children starving all around the country. There is a time and a place for everything, and if it's not your actual job to tell people about your opinions or your religious beliefs, you do that shit on your own time. Additionally, there are many ways of handling problems without customers ever being aware that there is any issue in the first place.

    Had this not been an explicit attempt to evangelize, Hrenuic could have easily kept his beliefs to himself and simply quietly asked another pharmacist to fill the prescription. There is almost no chance that this was the first time he had ever been asked to fill a prescription like this, so surely, his co-workers already knew his deal and should have been able to step in for him smoothly. It usually takes a bit to fill a prescription anyway, and surely Arteaga wouldn't have even noticed or cared if the person who handed it over to her was a different pharmacist from the one she initially spoke to. This way, everyone would have gotten what they wanted, without any drama or public humiliation. There was no reason for her to even know about his personal convictions. He made a conscious choice to handle things this specific way for a reason that had absolutely nothing to do with his fear of violating his "sincerely held beliefs." He made a conscious choice to humiliate her and make this a horrible experience for her -- because the experience of finding out her wanted pregnancy was ending wasn't horrible enough -- and for that alone he, and any other pharmacist out there who pulls this shit, should be fired.

    [AZ Central]

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    Robyn Pennacchia

    Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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