Walgreens under pressure from Durbin and Duckworth over birth control policy

Durbin and Duckworth have asked Brewer to reconsider the national policy to ensure that the privacy of all customers is respected and to provide more transparent guidance and notice on Walgreens stores providing full access to contraceptives.

Under current policy, Walgreens allows employees to refuse to sell contraceptives to customers if it goes against their personal beliefs. However, they are required to refer customers to another employee who can complete the transaction, according to Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman. Employees who require religious accommodation must obtain approval through a formal process with the company. Archrival CVS صيدلية Pharmacy It said It has a similar policy.

The controversy comes a month after the Supreme Court Roe v Wade case turned The historic decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, which many states have since moved to restrict or ban. Durbin and Duckworth argue in their letter that some states have also moved to limit access to various forms of contraception.

“These restrictions are exacerbated by Walgreens’ policy, which can come at the expense of your customers’ right to privacy, whereby an employee who refuses to complete a transaction involving contraception must report his objection to a colleague,” they wrote. “Furthermore, despite your policy requirement that a client’s needs be met in a timely manner, even if the pharmacist had an ethical objection, your policy was reported to have delayed timely access to medication.”

Durbin and Duckworth ask Walgreens to require its stores to post signs clearly indicating whether pharmacists and cashiers at a particular location may refuse to sell contraceptives. The senators are also asking Walgreens to notify customers via their app and website, and to provide additional training and education for employees to ensure they follow updated policies.

Ingerman told Crain’s in a statement this morning that Walgreens will “fully respond” to the senators’ message.

“We have reminded our team members of our policies and procedures and will update our training so that our team members can deliver a positive patient and client experience,” Engerman said.

Encounter Walgreens Calling for a social media boycott last week After a Twitter user shared that they were denied a condom sale at Walgreens in Hayward, Wis. The cashier allegedly told the customer that he would not sell condoms because of his faith.

Below is the senators’ speech directive issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month to about 60,000 retail pharmacies receiving federal financial assistance from Medicare and Medicaid payments. The agency emphasized that these institutions must protect people’s rights to access reproductive health care from the pharmacy, which includes prescription contraceptives.

Full text of the Senators’ speech:

Dear Mrs. Brewer:

We write about our concerns about recent reports that nationwide Walgreens policy allows employees to refuse to distribute contraceptives to customers based on their religious or moral beliefs. In these cases, clients were reported to have experienced public embarrassment or experienced significant delays in obtaining medications prescribed by their health care provider. We respectfully request that you review your policy to ensure that your customers’ privacy is respected and that they will have clearer notice as to whether they will have full access to contraceptives in your stores.

Reportedly, one client ran into significant hurdles in refilling a prescription for birth control, a medication she had been taking for six years. Despite the fact that her healthcare provider had already given her the prescription, your Walgreens pharmacist has asked your customer to speak to her provider again. It is claimed that your client was only able to access her medication after her provider confirmed that refills were available, and only after she had ordered the medication from another pharmacist. According to Walgreens policy, if pharmacists refuse to fill a prescription for which they “have an ethical objection,” they are “required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or duty manager to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner.” However, in this case, your client was reportedly unable to access his medication for four days, delaying needed care.

Plus, another pair of customers went to a Walgreens store earlier this month to buy condoms and other items. The cashier reportedly refused to ring the condom, explaining,[Walgreens] I could sell that to you…but I wouldn’t because of my faith.” Although one of your clients responded by saying that her choice to buy condoms was “none of your business,” the cashier reiterated his claim that his “faith demands” that he not sell condoms. That the treasurer waved to his manager to “call [the cashier] Completely off the record, to avoid any digital contact with condoms…and walk away with a smirk.” A spokesperson explained that Walgreens policies are “designed to ensure that the needs of our patients and customers are met while respecting the religious and ethical beliefs of our team members.” However, in the process of respecting the beliefs of your employees, As one of your clients explained, a cashier who refused to sell condoms “proceeded to embarrass me in front of other clients because of my reproductive choices.” Furthermore, it appears that your policy does not expressly respect the religious and ethical beliefs of your clients who wish to purchase legal medications and contraceptives.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health case caused a health care crisis in the United States. Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and Americans no longer have a constitutional right to reproductive health choices, many states across the country have blocked or severely restricted access. And some states have gone so far as to interfere in the provider-patient relationship, moving to limit access to various forms of contraception. These restrictions are compounded by Walgreens policy, which can come at the expense of your customers’ right to privacy, in which an employee who refuses to complete a transaction involving contraception must report his objection to a fellow employee. Furthermore, despite your policy requirement that a customer’s needs be met “in a timely manner” even if the pharmacist has an ethical objection, your policy has reportedly delayed timely access to medication.

Notably, on July 13, 2022, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance to nearly 60,000 US retail pharmacies, reminding them of their obligations under federal civil rights laws. Because pharmacies like Walgreens receive federal financial assistance — including through Medicare and Medicaid payments — they are prohibited by law from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in their programs and activities. The directive notes that the HHS Office for Civil Rights is responsible for protecting the rights of women and pregnant women to their ability to obtain care free of discrimination, including the ability to access reproductive health care from a pharmacy, such as prescription medications.

In an effort to increase transparency for customers seeking to purchase contraceptives and other forms of birth control at Walgreens, we respectfully ask that you:

  • Require your stores to post signs clearly indicating whether the store employs pharmacists and/or cashiers who refuse to distribute contraceptives and other forms of birth control, in addition to company policies;
  • notify Walgreens customers through your app and website of your policies regarding the distribution and sale of contraceptives; And the
  • Provide additional training and education to Walgreens employees to ensure they follow these policies while respecting your customers’ privacy and beliefs.

Furthermore, these informational materials must be available to persons with limited English proficiency (LEP) in locations where they are applicable and to persons with disabilities across the country. Customers should have the option to go elsewhere to purchase these products without judgment or discrimination by your employees. If customers choose to seek contraceptives at Walgreens, employees with religious or ethical objections should be required to respect customers’ privacy by privately conveying their objections to a fellow employee.

We are requesting a meeting to discuss these issues and to better understand the steps it will take to ensure that Walgreens respects its customers’ constitutional right of access to contraceptives.

Thank you for your time and your respect. We look forward to your prompt response.