April 4, 2007

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today applauded a decision by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., requiring the national retail chain’s pharmacies to satisfy valid requests for birth control, including emergency contraception (EC).  The policy shift came in response to Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s “Fill My Pills Now!” campaign, in which the ACLU of Florida participated. 

“Today’s decision ensuring that women are able to purchase birth control at all Wal-Mart pharmacies is a step in the right direction,” said Susan Derwin, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “As one of the largest retail pharmacy chains in the country, Wal-Mart’s policy requiring its pharmacies to satisfy valid requests for birth control is bound to make a real difference in women’s lives.”

In February, the ACLU of Florida notified Planned Parenthood that pharmacy employees were trying to prevent women from purchasing emergency contraception in four Florida Wal-Mart pharmacies located in Cocoa, Palm Bay and Sebastian.  Customers were misled about whether Wal-Mart stocked the pills, delayed or denied medication, and in one case, lectured about the decision to use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. 

In a statement released today, Planned Parenthood announced that Wal-Mart’s new policy ensures that customers “will now receive their prescriptions or [over-the-counter] products in store without discrimination (no harassment or lectures),” and without delay or judgment.

“Pharmacies should honor individual pharmacists’ religious beliefs whenever possible; however, the patient’s right to have a valid request for medication satisfied should always come first,” said Derwin. “Because women are the sole users of birth control pills, refusals to fill these valid prescriptions are tantamount to sex discrimination.”

Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning-after pill,” significantly reduces the risk of pregnancy if the first dose is taken within days of unprotected intercourse, but it is more effective the sooner it is taken.  Ready access to emergency contraception is critical for all women, the ACLU said.

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