As if getting the news that your pregnancy would end in miscarriage wouldn't be heartbreaking enough, one woman was denied the medication she needed to safely end her failed pregnancy by a Walgreens pharmacist, the New York Times reports.
Nicole Arteaga, a first-grade teacher in Peoria, Arizona, was told by her doctor nine weeks into her pregnancy that there was no fetal heartbeat, and that she would have a miscarriage. Her doctor gave her two options, either taking misoprostol (otherwise known as the abortion pill), or undergoing a D&C, a surgical procedure to end the pregnancy. Opting for misoprostol, Arteaga went to a nearby Walgreens to have the prescription filled, only to be told by the pharmacist that he wouldn't fill it for her due to his "ethical beliefs."
"Last night I went to pick up my medication at my local Walgreens only to be denied the prescription I need," Arteaga wrote in a Facebook post following the incident, which as since gone viral. "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."
She continued, "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."
Because this is obviously a horrible way to treat someone who is already experiencing plenty of pain, Walgreens has, for its part, since released a statement apologizing for the way Arteaga was treated.
"After learning what happened, we reached out to the patient and apologized for how the situation was handled," the drugstore said in a statement to CNN. "To respect the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists while at the same time meeting the needs of our patients, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient's needs in a timely manner."
Woman who was denied medication by pharmacist to induce miscarriage speaks out: "All I could feel was helplessness... I was thinking, 'This is my body, and I'm losing control.'"https://t.co/Ao3Y8Cp47dhttps://t.co/yV9OpbH8Uu
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) June 25, 2018
It also just so happens that Arizona is one of only six states that actually allow pharmacists to refuse to provide patients with medication because of moral or religious objections — though much like Walgreens' policy, the law also requires that they refer the prescription to another pharmacist at the location in order for it to be filled — which the pharmacist in this situation did not do.
While the pharmacist, a man by the name of Brian Hreniuc, is reportedly still employed at Walgreens, many who have read Arteaga's story are calling for him to be fired:
.@Walgreens, this woman was subjected to misogynistic cruelty by one of your pharmacists: Brian Hreniuc. Please terminate him stat and issue a statement clearly articulating your support of reproductive choice. https://t.co/AZLPitx7wm
— Rachel Vorona Cote (@RVoronaCote) June 23, 2018
@Walgreens Brian Hreniuc should have quietly asked another pharmacist in his location to fill the prescription. Instead he publicly announced that he won't fill her prescription, violating her privacy and humiliating her. This is unprofessional conduct and he should be fired.
— kehlar (@kehlarc) June 24, 2018
If this is true, @walgreens, you still need to fire Brian Hreniuc for violating your policy and humiliating a woman trying to fill a legitimately obtained medical prescription instead of simply telling her, “Let me get the other pharmacist to help you.” https://t.co/WaM6fJs4Np
— Ron Hogan (@RonHogan) June 24, 2018
Thankfully, Arteaga was able to have the prescription filled successfully the next day — though not without driving to a second Walgreens location across town, which was ultimately willing to fill it for her. She also says she has since spoken to the manager of the original Walgreens location, and filed a complaint with Walgreens' corporate office and the Arizona Board of Pharmacy.