DEERFIELD, IL — Two Illinois lawmakers have sent a letter to Walgreens’ top official, putting pressure on the Deerfield-based paramedical giant to revisit its policy that allows employees to refuse to sell customers reproductive rights products based on personal beliefs.
Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth sent the letter to Walgreens Chief Executive Officer Roz Brewer on Friday, requesting that the company consider making changes to its existing policy to respect the rights of customers who are shopping for contraceptives at Walgreen’s stores around the country.
Walgreens’ current policy allows employees to refuse to sell certain products based on their personal beliefs and faith-based stance. Durbin and Duckworth sent the letter to Brewer after reports of Walgreens employees telling customers they could not sell them certain items, including condoms, based on their beliefs.
One incident, in which an employee refused to sell condoms to a customer, recently took place in Wisconsin. Another incident was alleged in Missouri, where a woman who suffered a miscarriage during a very much wanted pregnancy said she was denied medication to help her pass the fetus and avoid sepsis.
Duckworth and Durbin said that Walgreens’ current policy places limitations on access to reproductive health items since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this summer.
In the letter, the Illinois lawmakers said that the court’s decision “unleashed a health care crisis” in the United States. While abortion is now illegal in some states after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Durbin and Duckworth said that some states have interfered with the insurance provider-patient relationship in limiting access to reproductive healthcare products.
“Such limitations are compounded by Walgreens’ policy, which can come at the expense of your customers’ right to privacy, as the employee who refuses to complete a transaction involving contraceptives must communicate her objection to a fellow employee,” the letter said. “Furthermore, despite your policy’s requirement that a customer’s needs be met in a ‘timely manner’ even if a pharmacist has a moral objection, your policy reportedly has delayed timely access to medication.”
Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said in a statement issued to Patch on Monday that the company is following up with Duckworth and Durbin seeking more information.
“To be clear, our policies are similar to other retailers, since we are all required to follow state and federal laws,” he said in the statement. “Our team members are required to sell all products in our stores, unless in the rare instances that the law mandates that a further accommodation be made. Even then, the employee must apply for a specific exemption, which is reviewed and approved by management through a formal process based on our policies set by law and is never solely at the discretion of the tea member.
“As always, our priority is to provide the best possible experience for our customers and patients.”
In the letter, Durbin and Duckworth said that Walgreens, like other pharmacies, must abide by federal civil rights laws, which prohibit businesses from discriminating against customers on the basis of sex, age, disability, race, and color.
It also said that they are asking Walgreens to require store managers to post signs that clearly indicate if a store employs pharmacists and/or cashiers who refuse to dispense contraceptives and other forms of birth control, as well as the company’s policies.
It asks the company to notify Walgreens customers through their app and website of Walgreens’ policies regarding dispensing and selling of contraception and provide further training and education to Walgreens staff to ensure they follow these policies while also respecting the privacy and beliefs of Walgreens customers.
The senators are also asking Walgreen’s officials for a meeting to discuss these issues and better understand what steps you will be taking to ensure that Walgreens respects its customers’ constitutional right to access contraceptives.
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