In a partial victory for women, Wal-Mart has announced that it will now carry emergency contraception (EC) in all of its pharmacies, complying with a February 14 ruling of the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy that forced the company to do so in that state. However, Wal-Mart’s policy will allow individual pharmacists to refuse to dispense the medication, leaving open the possibility that women will still not have access to a drug that has been prescribed for them.
The February 14 ruling in Massachusetts came after three women, Katrina McCarty, Julia Battel, and Dr. Rebekah Gee, sued Wal-Mart after attempting to purchase emergency contraception at suburban locations and were told that the store did not sell it and it could not be ordered. Announcing the decision to stock Plan B, a brand of EC, the vice president of Wal-Mart’s Pharmacy, Ron Chomiuk, stated, “We feel it is difficult to justify being the country’s only major pharmacy chain not selling it.”
However, as Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated, “In many communities, Wal-Mart is the only pharmacy, so timely access is critical” and the decision to excuse pharmacists from filling prescriptions for EC means that the company is “placing the burden on women.”
Wal-Mart currently faces the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history and has a history of anti-women practices.