Nicole Arteaga, a 35-year-old first-grade teacher in Arizona, walked into her local Walgreens in Peoria on Wednesday to have her prescription for misoprostol filled. Arteaga was prescribed misoprostol, a drug that induces a medical abortion, by her physician nine weeks into her pregnancy after—according to a Facebook post written by Arteaga— it was discovered that “the baby’s development had stopped.”
According to her post, Arteaga was told that her pregnancy would end in miscarriage and was given two options: a surgical abortion or a medical abortion. She opted for the misoprostol, but the pharmacist at her local Walgreens refused to fill her prescription. “I stood at the mercy of this pharmacist, explaining the situation in front of my 7-year-old, and five customers standing behind only to be denied because of his ethical beliefs,” Arteaga wrote her post. She noted that while she understands that “we all have our beliefs,” the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription even after she explained her distressing circumstances.
“I left Walgreens in tears,” she wrote, “ashamed and feeling humiliated by a man who knows nothing of my struggles but feels it is his right to deny medication prescribed to me by my doctor.”
Arteaga’s post, which was subsequently shared on Twitter, quickly went viral (as of now, it has over 33 thousand retweets), prompting a response from Walgreens. “Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection,” the drugstore said.
In a separate post on Saturday, Walgreens said they reached out to Arteaga and “apologized for how the situation was handled.” Arteaga later updated her Facebook post, indicating that her prescription had been sent to another Walgreens across town and filled. Arteaga told the Arizona Republic that there were other pharmacists at the original location but the original pharmacist did not refer her prescription to another employee in the store. She also disputed Walgreens’s claim that the company had reached out and apologized.
The Arizona Republic also reports that the Walgreens pharmacist, named as Brian Hreniuc in Arteaga’s post, was acting well within his legal rights. The newspaper notes that “Arizona laws specifically allow pharmacies and pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription for religious or moral reasons.” Arizona is one of six states that allow pharmacists to refuse to provide prescription based on moral objections.
In her post, Arteaga described her pain over her miscarriage, heightened by the unempathetic actions of the Walgreens pharmacist. “What he failed to understand is this isn’t the situation I had hoped for, this isn’t something I wanted,” Arteaga wrote. “This is something I have zero control over. He has no idea what it’s like to want nothing more than to carry a child to full term and be unable to do so.”
Update: In a statement from Walgreens, the company said that it was “looking into this incident” and “will provide additional training to all of our pharmacists on appropriately handling these situations.” The full statement reads: “To meet the health care needs of our patients while respecting the sincerely held beliefs of our pharmacists, our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. It’s important to note in that situation, the pharmacist also is required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient’s needs in a timely manner. We are looking into this incident, and as the patient suggested this morning in a media interview we will provide additional training to all of our pharmacists on appropriately handling these situations in accordance with our policy. We also reached out to the patient over the weekend, apologizing for how the situation was handled.”