Walgreen suspended four pharmacists without pay last week for their refusal to fill emergency contraception (EC) prescriptions, in violation of Illinois law. They are the first to be disciplined under the rule, which requires that any pharmacy selling FDA-approved contraceptives, including EC, must fill all contraceptive prescriptions. In the event that the pharmacy does not have a particular contraceptive in stock, the pharmacy must offer another contraceptive or transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.
Walgreen spokesperson Tiffani Bruce told the Associated Press that the four pharmacists cited religious objections to filling EC prescriptions, and wanted to “maintain their right to refuse to dispense, and in Illinois that is not an option.” She said they will remain suspended without pay “until they either decide to abide by Illinois law or relocate to another state.” Walgreen’s company policy allows pharmacists to refuse prescriptions, but requires them to transfer patients to another pharmacist or store so that the prescription can be filled. Walgreen has offered to help the suspended pharmacists get licensed in Missouri. Ed Martin, attorney for the suspended pharmacists, called the disciplinary action “disturbing,” and raised the possibility of legal action if Walgreen maintains its position, according to the Associated Press.