It feels like we are banging our head against a wall. In recent years, pharmacies in several states have refused to sell emergency contraception ("EC") to men. We've recently learned of two additional incidents — both at Walgreens — in Georgia and Alabama. The discrimination in the Georgia and Alabama stores followed the same pattern that we've seen in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi: a man attempts to purchase the medication for his female partner only to be confronted by a pharmacist who refuses to sell him the medication for the sole reason that he is a man.
For example, Willie Green attempted to purchase the medicine at a Walgreens in Smyrna, Ga. The pharmacy manager on duty at the time refused to sell him the product because he was a man, but told him he was free to go to a competitor drug store if he wanted to try to purchase the product there. The next day Mr. Green called the store to speak with the store manager who assured Mr. Green that he would take care of the situation and a refusal would not occur again. But Mr. Green was dubious and returned to the store a couple days later to purchase the product again. The pharmacy manager again refused to sell him the product. Mr. Green explained that he had spoken with the store manager, who said that Mr. Green would not face this obstacle again. After a long debate, the pharmacy manager agreed that Mr. Green could purchase the drug as long as another man processed the transaction.
It is incredibly frustrating to face obstacles when purchasing time-sensitive medication. Men and women who make healthy family planning decisions should be supported, and unnecessary obstacles to accessing emergency contraception cannot be tolerated given that time is of the essence to avoid an unintended pregnancy. Emergency contraception is most effective the sooner a woman takes it, and its effectiveness decreases every 12 hours. It is therefore crucial that a customer has access to emergency contraception as soon as it is needed.
Walgreens has a history of creating unnecessary delays to dispensing emergency contraception. After we brought prior incidents in Texas and Mississippi to Walgreens's attention, they promised to ensure that their pharmacists were trained to follow federal guidelines that say that both men and women are able to purchase the drug as long as they are 17 years old with a valid identification. How many men has this happened to and who we've never heard from?
So once again we've sent letters to Walgreens, asking them to ensure proper training to comply with FDA guidelines. We hope that Walgreens, and other pharmacies around the country, will take swift action to ensure that this disturbing trend comes to an end, that family planning decisions are respected, and that their pharmacies abide by FDA rules.