Rachel Peterson had a difficult and potentially life-threatening pregnancy before she found out the fetus had no detectable heart rate at the end of June.
The 35-year-old cardiovascular sonographer from Michigan told the Detroit Free Press that her doctor had given her three options: Wait and see whether her body would completely miscarry without any intervention; try the drug misoprostol to aid in the completion of the miscarriage; or schedule a dilation and curettage procedure to surgically empty the contents of her uterus.
Peterson chose the least invasive option, but after the process took longer than expected, her doctor prescribed misoprostol to help the miscarriage along and lower her risk of developing an infection.
Peterson and her husband decided to go to a family member's home in northern Michigan to decompress and grieve. She was away from the pharmacy she usually uses and tried a Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey. Meijer is a 230-store grocery chain that has stores in six Midwestern states. According to CNN, Peterson was initially told that her prescription would be filled.
But on July 1, the day Peterson was supposed to pick up the medicine, a pharmacist called and refused to fill her prescription. He stated that "he could not in good conscience fill this medication because he was a good Catholic male and could not support an abortion," she told CNN.
Along with aiding in the completion of a miscarriage, misoprostol can also be used to prevent stomach ulcers, induce labor and treat postpartum hemorrhaging. It can also be used to end a pregnancy when combined with another drug.
Peterson explained to the pharmacist that the fetus no longer had a heartbeat and that she needed the drug to miscarry safely.
"I felt ashamed, and I didn’t have to tell him that information but I thought, for my safety, to be able to have children again, this was an important step to take. And he denied that to me," she told the New York Times.
I felt ashamed, and I didn’t have to tell him that information but I thought, for my safety, to be able to have children again, this was an important step to take.
But she said the pharmacist didn't believe her. She also said he refused her requests to speak to another pharmacist or manager and refused to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy.
Peterson and her family were seething when they heard this. Not only did he think she was lying while she was going through a difficult time, he was also judging her and making it extra hard for her to follow her doctor's medical advice.
Peterson and her husband drove back to their home, and she was able to have the prescription filled at her regular pharmacy. Later, she talked to a Meijer regional manager, who said the pharmacist was on personal leave and that the company would be investigating. She also filed a formal complaint with Meijer's corporate office but never heard back.
So, now she's working with the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent a letter of complaint to Meijer on her behalf, in hopes of changing Meijer's policy and ensuring it's enforced. She is willing to file a lawsuit if it means it would prevent another woman from going through what she did.
Earlier this year, an Arizona mom was also denied miscarriage medication by a Walgreens pharmacist because of his ethical beliefs.
"A pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription based upon religious beliefs. However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store," Meijer said in a statement to CNN. "If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them. This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines. A pharmacist who fails to follow this procedure is in violation of our process."
Meijer also said the pharmacist (they refuse to identify him) has not been employed by the company since July and apologized for "any customer experience that does not align with our core values."