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Shouting Loud: Protesters decry pill refusal to rape victim

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA groups and Tucson residents held a protest yesterday in response to the 20-year-old woman who was denied the so-called 'morning-after' pill at Fry's on 2930 E. Grant Road after being raped.
By Laura Ory
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 28, 2005
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Pharmacist's decision sparks demonstration

UA students protested outside a grocery store yesterday speaking out against pharmacists who denied a 20-year-old rape victim from getting her prescription for emergency contraception filled.

Students and other members of the community displayed posters and signs to passing vehicles at the demonstration, held at Fry's Food and Drug Store, 3920 E. Grant Road, where the woman was denied her prescription.

"I'm feeling that this woman was not only raped sexually, but raped by a pharmacist's religious convictions," said Gretchen Nielsen, 73, a Tucson activist and poet.

Ana Muniz, a women's studies junior and president of the Network of Feminist Student Activists, said the group decided to organize the protest after reading an article about a rape victim being denied emergency contraceptive, also known as the "morning-after" pill.

After being sexually assaulted, Muniz said the woman called dozens of pharmacies to get her prescription for emergency contraception filled.

Most of the pharmacies she contacted did not stock the drug, and when she went to Fry's because they did carry the pill, the pharmacist on duty could not fill the prescription on time and said the next pharmacist would not fill it because of religious and moral objections.

"The store needs to know that they will lose costumers if they allow this, and people who shop there need to know what kind of a store they're patronizing, " said Faith Holschbach, a political science sophomore, and member of Faith Beyond Boundaries, a social justice club at the UA.

The Fry's pharmacists may choose not to fill a prescription that violates their individual moral, ethical or religious beliefs but must arrange to assist the patient in finding another pharmacist or pharmacy that will, according to an official statement released by the store.

Some protesters at the event felt that pharmacists are given too much power by being able to deny a prescription because of religious or moral objections.

Emergency contraceptive prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation and may interfere with the fertilization and implantation of a fertilized egg, according to the Planned Parenthood Web site.

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA groups protest outside Fry's, 2930 E. Grant Road, yesterday. The groups were protesting the pharmacy's response to a 20-year-old rape victim asking for the 'morning-after' pill.

"This goes to the heart of women's rights issues. She was raped and she didn't want an abortion. She wanted to prevent pregnancy," said Alethea Arnold, a member of the Network of Feminist Student Activists and senior majoring in English.

But not everyone considers the drug to be a preventative measure. Some think it's more like an abortion tactic.

Danielle Smith, a junior majoring in speech and hearing sciences, said she doesn't agree with the use of emergency contraception and thinks it's appropriate for a pharmacist to be able to choose whether or not to fill prescriptions of the drug.

"I believe it is abortive if there is any chance that there could be life forming," Smith said. "I think that anyone in their occupation should be able to keep their morals within their work. In this case I think it was justified."

While some disagree with the protesters' beliefs, Muniz said today's event was a part of the beginning of their efforts to raise awareness.

The Network of Feminist Student Activists has petitioned on the UA campus to make emergency contraception available over the counter, Muniz said.

The activists and other groups also handed out sheets with information about emergency contraception and where women can go to fill a prescription.

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