IONIA, Mich. -- A Meijer pharmacist is under scrutiny after an Ionia woman says he denied her a prescription she needed after suffering a miscarriage.
Rachel Peterson says the pharmacist denied filling her prescription for religious reasons, saying it was used for abortions. She said the pharmacist didn't believe her when she said what the medication was for, and said she was lying and that it was going to be for an abortion.
It was an emotional time for Peterson and her husband Rob when they found out they were pregnant in June. Their plans to grow their family came to a halt a few weeks later.
"They did an ultrasound and they confirmed that there was no heartbeat and that the fetus was no longer viable and that I had lost the baby," Peterson said.
After suffering a miscarriage, she would either have to let things clear out naturally, take a medication called Misoprostol or have surgery. They tried the first option, and decided to get away to Petoskey for a long weekend to mourn the loss of their baby.
"We decided to go up North and just kind of get away and relax and just try and grieve and focus on healing," she said.
When things didn't happen naturally, her doctor called in a prescription to the Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey. The pharmacist refused to fill it.
"He said that he refused to fill the prescription because he couldn’t in good conscience because he was a good Catholic male and that this medication was used for abortions," Peterson said. "And I decided to tell him that the fetus was no longer viable and that I needed the medication for, to make sure that things progressed naturally, and he said that he didn’t believe me."
When she asked him to have someone else fill the prescription she says he said 'no' and also refused to let her speak to a manager or send it to another Meijer pharmacy.
She and her husband drove three hours to the Meijer pharmacy in Ionia to eventually have it filled.
"He assumed that because I’m a woman and that the prescription, he assumed that I was using it for an abortion even though we wanted to have a baby and a family, but he just wouldn’t give it to me" she said.
Peterson reached out to the ACLU for help, who then filed a formal complaint against Meijer.
The company released a statement Wednesday, saying they can't discuss the specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws, but that their pharmacists may refuse to fill a prescription based on religious beliefs. However, that prescription must be filled by another pharmacist in the store or transferred to another pharmacy.
Peterson says she wants more training for this pharmacist and for policies to be clearer so no one else has to experience what she did.
"I just want fairness," she said.
Rachel says her mother also called the pharmacist who denied her prescription and claims he disclosed private medical information to her, which she says is a HIPAA violation. It's unclear if the pharmacist is still employed with Meijer or if he was reprimanded in any way.
Here is Meijer's full statement:
“Meijer has received a letter from the ACLU regarding a complaint that one of our pharmacists inappropriately handled a refusal to fill a prescription. We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and while we cannot discuss this specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws that protect health information, we want all of our pharmacy customers to know of our practices regarding a pharmacists’ ability to refuse to fill a prescription. Our practice is based upon our overwhelming concern for patient safety and care, balanced with the need to accommodate the religious beliefs of our employees. A pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs. However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store. If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them. This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines. A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure, is in violation of our process.”