Keep Your Deeply Held Religious Beliefs Off My Body

June 25, 2018

After giving birth to her first child, Nicole Mone Arteaga suffered a number of miscarriages. When she recently became pregnant again, her doctor monitored her carefully on a weekly basis; at 9 weeks, however, she learned that, tragically, the baby was not developing, that there was no heartbeat, and that the pregnancy would not result in a live birth. She was offered the option of an invasive surgical procedure or a prescription medication that would allow her to resolve the pregnancy at home, and which was likely less expensive and less medically risky. She discussed the matter with her physician, who ultimately issued an prescription for an “abortion drug.”

Ms. Arteaga did not want an “abortion,” and this pregnancy was no longer viable – no beating heart, no living fetus. She was heartbroken, because she had wanted this baby very much. But since there was nothing else to be done, she went to Walgreen’s to fill the prescription, aware that it would induce painful uterine contractions that would cause her body to expel a pregnancy she desperately wished to keep.

When she went to collect her prescription from Walgreen’s, the pharmacist on duty refused to fill it because of his “deeply held religious beliefs.” He expressed those “deeply held religious beliefs” to Ms. Arteaga, in front of other store customers and Ms. Arteaga’s 7 year old son. Ms. Aretaga attempted to explain her situation to him, but the pharmacist refused to budge.

Eventually, Ms. Arteaga was able to fill her prescription at another Walgreen’s store and then went home to complete her miscarriage. Walgreen’s has commented that, under Arizona law (and that of five other states), a pharmacist may refuse to fill a prescription when doing so would violate “deeply held religious beliefs,” but that the pharmacist must then step away and allow the prescription to be filled by another employee. That did not happen in this case, and Walgreen’s was appropriately apologetic to Ms. Arteaga for the conduct of its employee.

Everything I just wrote is a fact.

Here’s my take:

The pharmacist in this story thought his right to live his “deeply held religious beliefs” was more important than Ms. Arteaga’s right to fill a legal prescription ordered by a medical doctor.

He believed that his “deeply held religious beliefs” entitled him to violate Walgreen’s policy and Arizona law.

He believed that he had a right to impose his “deeply held religious beliefs” upon a customer who, through no fault of her own, was in need of a prescription medication.

He believed that his refusal to serve a customer who was understandably distraught over losing a pregnancy was consistent with his “deeply held religious beliefs,” none of which, it would seem, include the value of compassion.

He believed that HIS interpretation of his “deeply held religious beliefs” required Ms. Arteaga to, oh, I don’t know, continue the pregnancy until it ultimately terminated itself, with whatever medical risk that may have involved.

It is bad enough that this moron determined that his “deeply held religious beliefs” trumped Ms. Arteaga’s own motives, ethics and values – about which he made unfounded and inaccurate assumptions; what’s equally atrocious is that he also attempted to override the professional judgment of her physician.

Last time I checked, pharmacists don’t hold medical degrees. They don’t examine their customers, take medical histories, lay hands on them, or have discussions with them about treatment options.

Do they have to know something aboue medicine and physiology? Of course. But they aren’t physicians, and this particular pharmacist did not know whether or not there may have been extenuating circumstances which would have ruled out a D & C or a natural conculsion to the pregnancy because, guess what?

HE’S NOT A FUCKING DOCTOR.

I find it outrageous that this pharmacist thought his “deeply held religious beliefs” entitled him to override not only the judgment of someone who had ACTUALLY BEEN TO MEDICAL SCHOOL, but also to determine that it was his right to decide for Ms. Arteaga how she should deal with her dead fetus. That she, too, may have had “deeply held religious beliefs” about abortion was something he apparently never considered, nor, apparently, did it trouble him that shis prescription was not being filled for the purpose of terminating a viable pregnancy (thought it was none of his business in the first place whether it was or not) but, rather, to bring to a final conclusion what had already happened.

It is outrageous that some in this country believe that their “deeply held religious beliefs” are morally superior to the “deeply held beliefs” of those who may not agree with them.

It is outrageous that those same people believe that their “deeply held religious beliefs” entitle them make decisions for the rest of the world, including by refusing them access to healthcare.

This country was founded upon the principals of religious freedom, including the freedom to espouse viewpoints different from those purportedly held by some asshole pharmacist working at Walgreen’s.

And guess what else? Just because you call them “deeply held religious beliefs” doesn’t mean that I have to bow to them, or that they’re “right.” It just means that they’re yours.

I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I know plenty of women who have. Most of them were extremely excited to learn that they were pregnant, did everything they could to maximize the chances for a healthy pregnancy, and were heartbroken when they learned that the pregnancy had terminated. Those who miscarried spontaneously have described the pain and the emotional trauma of their experiences, which for many required them to retrieve the “products of conception” and deliver them to their doctors in order to make sure the miscarriage was complete.

Others learned that their pregnancy was over on the ultrasound table, and were sent home to await the miscarriage or undergo a painful medical procedure which has risks of its own. I don’t know which would be worse. What I do know is that each and every woman who has ever told me about a miscarriage – whether she has gone on to have more or other children – was deeply traumatized to lose a baby she very much wanted to parent, and the pain is still there even years later.

Bottom line, Mr. Walgreen’s Pharmacist? Ms. Arteaga came to you for a prescription she never wanted to have to fill, knowing from past experience that the process awaiting her after she took said medication would be painful and traumatic. Your response was to get up on your deeply held religious high horse, buttressed by the smug self-satisfaction of someone who has exactly ZERO understanding of what is like to be pregnant, or to lose a child to miscarriage.

Because I was curious, I looked up whether or not pharmacists take an oath with regard to the discharging of their duties; turns out, they do, and it includes, as the very first item, way at the tippy top of the list, the following:

“I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.” https://www.pharmacist.com/oath-pharmacist

Looks like, in addition to Walgreen’s policy and Arizona law, this guy also violated his oath as a pharmacist. I guess the “welfare of humanity” and the “relief of suffering” are irrelevant in the face of one’s “deeply held religious beliefs.”

I also guess that those “deeply held religious beliefs” do not include the basic concept of “don’t be a fucking asshole.”

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