Woman’s bleeding violates pharmacist’s conscience

My experience with miscarriage was jarringly prolonged.  Nothing I’d read or seen of depictions of women’s lives had prepared me for the ongoing months of bleeding that followed the experience, and words cannot express my fear, distress and dread of each new day’s unpredictable developments.  My doctor chose to assist me in managing the prolonged bleeding without prescribing drugs, for a variety of reasons, but she did suggest that anti-bleeding drugs might help reduce both the bleeding and my resultant stress.

When I recall that painful time, my heart goes out to the Idaho woman who went to a local Walgreen’s to get just such a prescription filled, and whose pharmacist refused to fill it because it violated her conscience to do so.  If you are wondering how helping a woman with her stressful and taxing experience of suffering from prolonged bleeding could violate anyone’s conscience, then remember that prolonged bleeding doesn’t just happen to “good” women like me who wanted their pregnancies!  No, no, my friends.  Prolonged bleeding can also happen to women who may have sought out abortions.  I emphasize MAY, because when the pharmacist called the referring nurse practitioner to ask the reason for needing the prescription (!!!), the NP responded that the information was confidential:

The nurse says she cited federal patient privacy laws and refused to answer.

“The pharmacist said, ‘Well, if you’re not going to tell me that and she had an abortion, I’m not going to fill this prescription.’ And then our practitioner said, ‘Why don’t you tell me another pharmacy that I can call or another pharmacist that can dispense this medication for my patient?’ And the pharmacist hung up on her,” said Kristen Glundberg-Prosser of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

This past Wednesday, Planned Parenthood responded by filing a complaint with the Idaho pharmacy board.  The pharmacist, who refused her services in November 2010, apparently felt she was within the scope of a revised “conscience law” passed in Idaho  which became effective in July 2010, and extended to pharmacists, among others, the refusal of health care services that violate an individual’s conscience.    Planned Parenthood suggests that the pharmacist overstepped the terms of the conscience law.

I am relieved that I have recovered my health with the aid and support of health care professionals who took seriously their responsibilities as my providers of information and access to what I needed to get better.  I cannot imagine, as I look back on my own prolonged bleeding experience, how I would have felt if I had also been burdened with a pharmacist who found my very trauma to be a suspicious indicator of a violation of her conscience, rather than a serious and chronic health problem that she was well positioned to alleviate.  And I look forward to using her statement in logic class, as an example of a conditional whose antecedent was a problematic conjunction!

11 thoughts on “Woman’s bleeding violates pharmacist’s conscience

  1. Well, she did have an abortion – a ‘spontaneous abortion”.

    Estimates are that 15% to 30% of conceptions end in “miscarriage”. The people who make it their business to promote guilt and shame over “abortion”, never take into consideration that this rhetoric produces the same guilt and shame in women who have endured unwanted miscarriages.

    Neither do they seem concerned to use the law to alleviate known problems that contribute to the medical problems and birth defects that cause miscarriages, such as, for example, toxic pollution from mining, power plants, and agricultural chemicals. Or poverty, malnutrition and starvation for that matter.

    This lack of concern for the realities of conception and birth prove to me that these people are not concerned with real life; they are only concerned with punishing what they consider illicit sex.

    Neither do they answer the question of why, if God is so all fired concerned with the preciousness of unborn life, why does he have such a defective system of getting these conceptions carried through to birth? A 20% failure rate is pretty poor for a deity who is supposed to be perfect and all powerful.

  2. I fel heart sick at this narrative. How awful and finally evil that reactions such as those of the pharmacist are motivated by ideology, as oppsed to experience.

  3. All so horrible. And horrible to hear of your experiences as well. Thank you for your willingness to share them and thereby add to our appreciation of the situation. (I actually did not know much about the physical aspects of miscarriage.)

  4. I have been quoted even higher statistics for the number of pregnancies miscarried. I had consecutive miscarriages, and I remember the feeling of shock when I glanced at my notes and saw, not the word miscarriage or loss or any of those things that would sit more comfortably with what I was feeling, but the words ‘spontaneous abortion’. Horrible, horrible, horrible. As it is, there is not a day that goes by that I do not remember the loss of those babies, despite the years I still have flashbacks to the actual events, and for a very, very long time I also had various physical problems including flooding instead of normal menstrual bleeding. If someone had added any kind of judgement to all that, particularly without full possession of the facts, and even with….well!


  5. You know, on reflection I think your title is wrong. It’s quite clear that the pharmacist is very comfortable with the woman’s bleeding. It’s trying to alleviate the bleeding that violates their conscience.

  6. Thanks for the post. Heartwrenching.

    It strikes me, also, that it’s one thing to refuse to assist someone in obtaining or performing an abortion, whilst it’s another thing entirely to refuse to assist someone who is suffering some injury as a result of an abortion. A justification for the former doesn’t translate into a justification of the latter. I might, e.g., be justified in refusing to help my friend harpoon a whale, but if his attempts to do so lead to his suffering some injury, I am surely not justified in refusing to help him and letting him bleed to death.

  7. Thanks for your comments, all. Good to know my own passionate response did not get in the way of writing a coherent post! Monkey’s comment is especially appreciated, since I did try to imagine someone who violated my conscience, and pictured, e.g., someone who came into an ER with wounds from being tackled after wantonly shooting innocent bystanders. But it seems to me wrong to say that I will not patch his wounds because he is bad, or rather, it seems indefensible to agree to be a health-care provider if you will not care for those you deem conscience-violating in their person. Were I somehow providing care that aided the shooter in harming — more analogous to arguments against providing an abortion pill — maybe that would ask more of my conscience than I should be compelled to provide, but a coagulant does not assist abortion in any way. So, what the hell, I guess I conclude that Jender is right, and that the pharmacist did not mind seeing a woman bleed interminably. Insert heavy sigh here.

  8. I think the pro-choice movement has all too readily accepted the “conscience” exception regarding abortion, and that is part of the reason it is being constantly expanded to now include contraception and, it seems, after-care… and more (see below). The “consciences” of everyone involved in providing abortion/contraception care are to be treated with kid gloves, but that of the woman concerned is treated with contempt. As for the constant expansion, anti-abortion advocates argue that doctors should be able to opt out of taking part in Down syndrome screening, using conscience clauses in the law, because they see this screening as part of a “genocide” of Down syndrome fetuses. Where does it stop? And perhaps we shouldn’t have been so accepting of giving it up with respect to abortion in the first place. But that is another debate.

Comments are closed.