Oct. 18 (UPI) -- A Michigan woman says a Meijer pharmacist, citing his religious beliefs, refused to fill her prescription during a miscarriage.
Rachel Peterson said the pharmacist told her that, as a Catholic, he would not give her the medication because he feared she would use it to intentionally abort the fetus.
"I was stunned," Peterson told UPI Thursday. "It was surreal. I had to ask him to repeat himself."
The pharmacist, Richard Kalkman, could not be reached for comment Thursday. A Meijer representative said Kalkman's employment at the Petoskey, Mich., store ended in early July. The encounter with Peterson occurred July 1.
"We have thoroughly investigated these allegations and ... we cannot discuss this specific matter due to federal and state privacy laws that protect health information," a statement from Meijer's corporate office said.
Meijer's policy does allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their religious beliefs, it said.
"However, our procedure requires the prescription to then be filled by another pharmacist in the store. If no other pharmacist is available, the pharmacist must consult with the patient to arrange for the transfer of the prescription to another pharmacy that is convenient to them. This is consistent with the American Pharmacy Association and the Michigan Pharmacy Association Guidelines."
This is not how Kalkman handled Peterson's prescription, she said.
"I tried to tell him that the fetus was no longer viable, and that my doctor had confirmed it through an ultrasound," Peterson said. "He didn't believe me."
Peterson began to cry as she continued telling the story.
"I asked him if he would call my OB to confirm, and he wouldn't," she said. "I asked him if I could speak with anyone else, and he said no. I asked if he would send it to anyone else to fill it, and he said no. Then he hung up."
Peterson was on vacation when she visited the store, several hours from her home pharmacy. She and her husband were grieving the loss of their first pregnancy and decided to spend the weekend at their favorite vacation spot in northern Michigan. Her doctor prescribed Misoprostol, a medication that brings on miscarriages more quickly. Petersen intended to pick up the medication near the vacation spot.
After she was refused the medicine in Petoskey, Peterson called her home pharmacy in Ionia, Mich., which is also a Meijer store. The pharmacist she spoke with was "appalled" and promised to get her the medication, she said.
The Ionia pharmacy had trouble retrieving the prescription from the Petoskey store, according to a letter sent to Meijer by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which is representing Peterson. But workers eventually pulled it from the store's internal system and filled the prescription.
According to Kalkman's LinkedIn profile, he had worked as a pharmacist at the Petoskey Meijer since 1989.
Peterson hopes that by sharing her story, she will raise awareness about this issue.
"I was not aware of how prevalent this was," Peterson said. "People have the right to believe what they want, but you can put someone in serious health risk by denying them medication. I was able to go somewhere else to get the medicine. Someone else might not be."