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Pharmacists on campus fill Plan B prescriptions

By Ariel Serafin
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 3, 2005
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UA health officials want students to know that emergency contraception is available through Campus Health Service, regardless of whether or not pharmacists in the Tucson community are choosing to dispense it.

The recent denial of emergency contraception to a Tucson sexual assault victim sparked outrage and protest last week about the rights of both pharmacists and patients.

Debates started after a pharmacist at Fry’s Food and Drug Store, 3920 E. Grant Road, informed the 20-year-old woman the prescription could not be filled at that time, and the next pharmacist on duty would also be unable to fill the prescription because of religious and moral objections.

But students don’t have to worry about being denied emergency contraception at Campus Health, said Interim Chief Pharmacist Kim Birmingham, who said she doesn’t know of anyone being denied the pill at the UA service.

“That wouldn’t happen here,” Birmingham said.

When someone applies for a pharmacy position at Campus Health, they are asked about any potential issues they might have with dispensing medications, and are informed how emergency contraception is frequently dispensed, with about 15 prescriptions for it filled everyday, Birmingham said.

“That’s a big part of what we do here,” Birmingham said.

Women can get emergency contraception through the Women’s Health Program anytime they’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse, said Campus Health Certified Nurse and Midwife Eileen Devlin. And women who call Campus Health seeking emergency contraception will almost always get an appointment the same day, Devlin said. Devlin compared her responsibilities as a nurse to those of a pharmacist, and said she leaves her ethical beliefs out of her occupation.

“I certainly don’t agree with a pharmacist injecting their personal moral or religious beliefs into their service,” Devlin said. “That’s not our position. Our position is to provide care to people who need it.

But UA students have mixed emotions about pharmacists’ rights to deny filling prescriptions. Ryan Montana Erickson, who works as a pharmacy technician at Albertsons, 6600 E. Grant Road, said he felt the pharmacists should have the right to choose which medications they dispense.

“That’s a judgment call,” said Erickson, a public management and policy junior. “If (pharmacists) don’t want to do that, it’s fine. It’s not like people don’t have access to the medication.”

Erickson, who is also a student government senator, said he’s only seen a few prescriptions for the morning after pill in his few years’ experience at the pharmacy. He said he thinks the incident at Fry’s was nothing more than an isolated incident.

“I’d say it’s totally her right to take a morning-after pill,” Erickson said. “But it’s the pharmacist’s right to deny it.”

Danielle McCue, a pharmacy junior, said she feels people in every occupation need to keep their moral and religious beliefs out of their work, and pharmacists are not exempt.

“I don’t believe that you should be able to bring that into your place of work,” McCue said. “You can’t do that with any job.”

In order to avoid any potential hassle, students who want emergency contraception should use the Campus Health Service, Devlin said.

“It’s seamless, you get it, and there’s nobody copping an attitude,” Devlin said. “All the providers are here to provide the best patient care available.”

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