My name is Susanne Koestner, and I want to share something disturbing that happened to me earlier this month. On Sunday, June 10, I called in to the Walgreen’s Pharmacy at 10300 Central SE in Albuquerque to refill my birth control prescription. The pharmacist on duty told me that he couldn’t fill my prescription and said I would have to wait until the next day for another pharmacist to fill it. When I asked why, he said, “Because it’s against my religious beliefs.”
I needed my medication immediately and couldn’t wait until the next day. I was forced to drive to a different part of town to get my prescription filled. Walgreens put the burden on me to find a pharmacist that had no personal objections to the medication my doctor prescribed me.
While religious freedom is important, religion should not be used to discriminate against people, and that is what happened to me. Something is very wrong when a man can walk in to any pharmacy and buy condoms, but a woman can’t fill a birth control prescription prescribed to her by a doctor. Employers shouldmake reasonable accommodations for employees’ individual religious beliefs, but they should never do so at the expense of others.
As a patient, I am at the mercy of licensed pharmacists and pharmacies when it comes to being able to receive the medications my doctor has prescribed for me. I do not believe that I should be unable to receive my medication based on the individual beliefs of each pharmacist. It is Walgreens’ responsibility to provide seamless patient care to me.
Walgreen’s failed me in this respect, and I want to make sure that no other woman is ever refused essential health care. For many women in rural areas of New Mexico, there is no other pharmacy across town to go to if they are refused service. And for many medications, including birth control pills, it is not acceptable to be forced to wait until a pharmacist with different beliefs is on duty to receive medication.
The ACLU of New Mexico and the Southwest Women’s Law Center sent a letter to Walgreens’ Corporate Headquarters yesterday, asking them to adopt a policy would guarantee that customers receive seamless care regardless of the beliefs of their individual employees. Please lend your voice as well by signing our petetition, and let Walgreens know that it is unacceptable to erect barriers between women and essential health care.
UPDATE: The Walgreens petition is now closed and has been sent to the company’s district office headquarters. Thanks to the 1,084 people who took action on this important issue!