Back in July, a male pharmacist for the Meijer store chain in Michigan refused to fill 35-year-old Rachel Peterson’s prescription for the drug misoprostol. The pharmacist, who described himself as a “good Catholic male,” thought she was trying to induce an abortion, but she was just trying get some relief from a miscarriage that was already underway. The pharmacist, identified by the ACLU of Michigan as Richard Kalkman, is now out of a job.
Misoprostol is used to induce labor during pregnancy and to speed up a miscarriage that is already in process. It’s also used for the treatment of stomach ulcers and postpartum hemorrhages. When combined with other drugs, it can be used to induce an abortion.
Kalkman’s firing comes after Peterson filed a complaint with the ACLU, saying that he denied her services based on his religious beliefs.
In a statement to the Detroit Free Press this Thursday, Meijer spokesperson Christina Fecher said Kalkman is no longer with the company.
“Meijer strives to treat its pharmacy customers with dignity and respect,” Fecher said. “The pharmacist identified by recent reports has not been employed by Meijer since early July 2018. While we cannot comment on any pharmacy customer matter, we apologize for any customer experience that does not align with our core values.”
The Friendly Atheist’s David Gee reported this Wednesday that the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint to Meijer, saying Kalkman’s actions were “discriminatory” and “cruel.”
“Meijer’s practice of allowing its pharmacist to refuse to fill prescriptions and decline to transfer them is discriminatory and violates Michigan’s public accommodations laws,” the complaint read. “The ACLU of Michigan is demanding Meijer implement a policy that ensures all pharmacy customers receive their medication without undue delay regardless of the personal beliefs of its pharmacists.”
The ACLU said Kalkman told Peterson that he wouldn’t fill her prescription because he’s a “good Catholic male.” When she told him that her doctor said her fetus wasn’t viable, he accused her of lying.
“When I divulged to him that the fetus was no longer viable, and that … I needed to progress the situation further, he said, ‘Well, that’s your word and I don’t believe you,’ and he refused to fill it,” Peterson said.
Meijer allows pharmacists to refuse prescriptions based on moral objections, but they are required to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy or at have another Meijer pharmacist fill it. In this case, Kalkman refused to do even that.
As The Hill reported, Michigan ACLU policy strategist Merissa Kovach said that Peterson was a victim of sex discrimination.
“Had the customer been a man prescribed the same medication, that is also commonly used to treat ulcers, the pharmacist would have filled it,” Kovach said. “What we would hope is that Meijer and other pharmacies would agree that they’re allowed to accommodate the personal beliefs of their employees, but that accommodation cannot include permitting discriminatory denials of care that burden patients and customers.”
Featured image via spectrumhealth.org