Virginia pharmacy declares it’s “birth-control free”


A pharmacy in Chantilly, VA. has become the seventh pharmacy to be officially certified by the anti-choice group Pharmacists for Life International.

On Tuesday, the pharmacy celebrated a blessing from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde. While Divine Mercy Care is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is guided by church teachings on sexuality, which forbid any form of artificial contraception, including morning-after pills, condoms and birth control pills, a common prescription used by millions of women in the U.S.
“This pharmacy is a vibrant example of our Holy Father’s charge to all of us to wear our faith in the public square,” said Loverde, who sprinkled holy water on the shelves stocked with painkillers and acne treatments. “It will allow families to shop in an environment where their faith is not compromised.”

Because otherwise families will be forced to compromise their faith by shopping at the CVS down the block, where cashiers toss handfuls of birth control pills into the air with wild abandon, buckets of NuvaRings are for sale right next to the cash register, and every aisle contains giant posters of copulating couples with taglines like “SEX WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES!” (Kidding.)
Seriously, though, Jessica at Jezebel explains why this matters:

So what’s the big deal, you may think, this pharmacy is in the D.C. area, competing against thousands of pharmacies that do dispense birth control. But, as former Planned Parenthood lawyer Roberta Riley points out, “in parts of Montana, women must drive 80 miles to find a pharmacy willing to sell contraception,” because so many pharmacists are practicing their “consciences.”
What’s more, as Tarina Keene, executive director of the Virginia chapter of NARAL notes, “If this emboldens other pharmacies in other parts of the state, it could really affect low-income and rural women in terms of access.” But isn’t denying women their prescriptions illegal? Well, it depends on where you live.

Let’s hope it doesn’t become a full-blown trend.

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91 Comments

  1. Posted October 23, 2008 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    America is supposed to practice religious freedom. Therefore, YOUR beliefs are not open to question. If these pharmacists believe that strongly in a religion that doesn’t allow for contraception, then maybe they made a bad career choice, but it should be THEIR problem, not their customers’! What’s MOST scary is that anyone that stupid is even ALLOWED to become a pharmacist!

  2. Holden
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I don’t understand why pharmacists are allowed to make the choice to sell or not to sell someone birth control. They are not doctor; their job is not to regulate what I take.
    Until recently, I worked in a library. My job was, in part, to check out books to people. It didn’t matter what book they had, I scanned it and handed it to them.
    Let’s say for instance I was against dogs…for this scenerio, dogs are against my religion and I don’t think people should have them as pets (not sure what religion I am!) If someone had came to check out a book on dogs or adopting a new puppy or something, and I refused to check it out to them on ‘moral grounds’ or because it was ‘against my religion’ I would have been FIRED.
    It was not my job to regulate what people read. The only time I gave my opinion was if someone asked “Is this a good book?” Pharmacists should do the same. It’s not their place to tell someone what medication to take or not to take; their only comments should fall in the lines with “Does this come in generic?” or something similar.

  3. hannah _ j
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    You have got to be kidding me! I’m seventeen and have to take birth control to regulate my periods… no sexual activity there. And I live in another part of Virginia where it is semi-easy to get to a pharmacy but still, not everybody or place has that privelege. And in response to Trees statement “but they have viagra” THANK YOU!

  4. Yawgmoth
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    The Catholic teaching against ‘artificial’ contraception is based on the Natural Law, which basically states that condoms, which have existed for thousands of years, are unnatural, whereas digital thermometers used to increase the accuracy of FAM/NFP are not. This makes perfect sense when you realize that the Church hierarchy, consisting of celibate males, resents the hell out of the sex-having lay Catholics (so to speak, heh), particularly women. We’re all supposed to emulate the Virgin Mary, who never had sex with Joseph (hah!) but was a mother anyway. (Surely you can all see why that’s a problem.)
    Personally I suspect the reasons ‘Natural’ Family Planning is OK with the Church are: 1) the abysmal typical-use failure rates, and 2) it can work well IF IF IF you stick to it, but if you are avoiding the punishment of babies for your filthy urges, you should pay by being horny and miserable during the woman’s fertile phase. Suffering is noble! Also, mandatory!

  5. FrumiousB
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Catholic Church refuses to acknowledge that some women need to be on it for health issues
    The Catholic Church does not consider hormonal contraception taken for the purpose of period regulation or other non-contraceptive medical uses to be a sin. (Although Sarah Haskins seems to.) While I am not a fan of the Catholic Church, I prefer not to see their policies misquoted. They are wacky enough that we don’t need to make stuff up.

  6. chelsea
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    let capitalism do it’s work. this mom and pop place is already less competitive with the main chains, not selling contraceptives will only hurt their business. I will smile when they close down. :)
    and ps
    I agree that all this “pharmacist’s choice” stuff is bullshit, just give me my damn yaz.

  7. SarahMC
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    As much as these people make me sick, this pharmacy pisses me off much less than the “secular” ones that allow their individual pharmacists decide which medications they’ll dispense. At least this one broadcasts its backwards, anti-woman philosophy publicly. I’d rather know ahead of time and just avoid the place completely, rather than being blindsided by the Rite Aid I’ve been shopping at for years.
    Hopefully it will just fail miserably.
    A lot of people ask why these people went into pharmacy in the first place when they don’t intend to do their jobs. Well, most of these pharmacists go into the profession specifically to “change the culture” (i.e. control women). It’s not an accident or anything. Conservative Christian schools are training their students to impose their narrow beliefs on unsuspecting folks who are just going about their business. Their unwillingness to dispense birth control, etc. is a feature, not a bug.

  8. Brianna G
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Frumious B, even still, does that mean that this pharmacy or Catholic pharmacists will dispense BC for medical reasons? And what, will they require women to reveal their private medical history to get it? That’s a HIPPA violation.

  9. Shade
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    @ Fruminous B
    Thanks for correcting me on that; I was aware of their view on using it strictly as birth control and several catholic friends refuse to use it for medical issues, so I incorrectly assumed that was the general view of the church.
    @Holden
    “Pharmacists should do the same. It’s not their place to tell someone what medication to take or not to take; their only comments should fall in the lines with “Does this come in generic?” or something similar.”
    Except we go to school for 6 years to be able to tell people what medication to take or not to take – we have years of pharmacological training to be able to precisely do that. No, we’re not diagnosticians by any means and we should definitely follow the treatment plans the doctors set up, but our job involves more than just counting pills and handing you the bottle.

  10. elephlux
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I’m married and we practice NFP. In all honesty, it’s added to our marriage in ways we never expected. We’ll never do the pill again. I think one of the worst things planned parenthood has done for everyone in educating, has been treating the pill as primary method for avoiding pregnancy (when in the context of a marriage for instance). From our experience, NFP is far superior.
    It’s my opinion that since many Christian denominations embrace it, planned parenthood doesn’t give it the attention is very much deserves.

  11. ShelbyWoo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Except we go to school for 6 years to be able to tell people what medication to take or not to take – we have years of pharmacological training to be able to precisely do that.
    Absolutely. Pharmacists are the last line of professional defense against medication errors and/or dangerous combinations of meds (many times they are the only line of defense against this – especially if a customer has multiple doctors prescribing multiple meds). They are, and should be, the go to person for help in choosing over-the-counter meds as well.
    Shade is right, let’s not write-off pharmacists as a whole just because a few of them think their personal religious beliefs trump a doctor/patient decisions.

  12. Halo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Pharmacists are supposed to be trained to help avoid things like bad interactions and possible health problems (like Shade was saying). They are not supposed to make personal judgment calls on your worth as a person, or the effect it may have on your “soul”. If I shouldn’t take BC because my head might explode due to an interaction with another med, then I would be happy that the pharmacist caught it in time. That’s very different that someone making a personal judgment call based in religion (or whatever else).
    That’s the distinction, science vs opinion.

  13. Halo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I think it’s great that PP advocates the pill and not NFP- simply because the 80-90% effectiveness of NFP, when it’s being done correctly, is too much of a margin for error for me (and many others, I’m sure).
    I’m pretty sure it’s lack of safety from disease and higher pregnancy rates is one of the reasons PP doesn’t push it, not because of religion…

  14. elephlux
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Halo – Depending on which method one uses… marquette method, basal body temp method, etc, those are about 99% accurate. And this has been true in our marriage too, since in spacing our children, we’ve been able to avoid pregnancy ever single time we’ve used it…
    If they were only 90% accurate for any given month, the likelihood that we’d been pregnant within a year would be (1 – 0.9^12) = 0.718 … or 71.8%!!!!.
    Those are not the odds we’ve been working with.

  15. AgnesScottie
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I love how this “pro-life” pharmacy would deny me birth control. Sure, I use it for birth control purposes, but I also use it for it’s prevention of ovarian cysts (an extremely painful pain that I’ve had to deal with twice before getting on the bc). I also have a mother who died of breast cancer and an aunt who had stage IV ovarian cancer and found out she has the gene for it. Taking birth control will likely decrease my risk for ovarian cancer and prevent my ovarian cysts.
    As always pro-life means pro-fetal-life only. They don’t give a damn if I die from cancer or have to sit in bed for three days curled up in a little ball of pain. Thanks pro-life pharmacy!

  16. SMLyons
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Why not Drugstore.com?
    Whenever I hear about people who drive 80 miles for pills and live in someplace with horrible and judgmental pharmacists, I always wonder why they don’t just send their prescription in to Drugstore.com and have them fill it? It’s an amazing choice for either women in birth control challenged areas or lazy women like me who prefer not to schlep to CVS each month. They fill my prescription every month with zero drama and no work on my part.
    Your doctor can actually call your prescription in to them directly or you can fax or transfer it. They take insurance, if you have it, cash if you don’t. Granted, it’s $2.95 for delivery, but that’s way cheaper than paying for gas to drive 80 miles each way.
    Maybe one challenge for these women would be a lack of internet access, but you can always try the public library. Because you only need to set up the prescription one time and put it on auto-refill, it could be a real option.
    I realize it doesn’t solve the core problem, but it’s an instant solution to the day to day issue.

  17. Halo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    elephlux- That’s great that it works for you, but your anecdotal evidence doesn’t line up with statistical evidence. The fact is that it’s not nearly as reliable as other methods (such as the pill or barrier methods) therefore it’s not highly recommended for most people.
    On that note, I wonder if these “pro-life” pharmacies offer the supplies and information needed to use the various fertility awareness methods?

  18. ShelbyWoo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    elephux:
    Planned Parenthood treats the pill as the “primary method for avoiding pregnancy” because it is the primary method for the majority of women in the U.S. However, they do provide impartial information on all types of birth control, including natural family planning (which they call Fertility Awareness-Based Methods). They are not biased toward the pill – that just happens to be the method most women choose (whether they utilize Planned Parenthood or not) because it’s effective and easy to use.

  19. elephlux
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Halo, I simply don’t know where you pulled the 80% – 90% statistics from. Maybe this is true for the rhythm method… but most of the modern NFP methods simply have much better statistics than 80% – 90%. I didn’t make the 99% effectiveness number up, there have been several studies which point to 99% effectiveness, within a reasonable interval of confidence (like within 95 % confidence).
    I wasn’t only offering my “anecdotal” experience with it. These are hard and true numbers.

  20. elephlux
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Furthermore, if the modern NFP methods were really 90% effective, the (1 – 0.9^12) = 71.8% statistical likelihood of getting pregnant is also true. But there are no studies that I’ve come across that say people using NFP are getting pregnant at this astronomical rate within each year of using the modern methods.
    The statistics you found are simply incorrect, or intentionally misleading.

  21. RiotGrrl
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Besides the fact that I am against pharmacists imposing their religious views on women and trying to control women’s bodies, bc is taken for various medical conditions. So do they realize that they are making women at risk to not just pregnancy. Someone already mentioned that they have to take it after recieving chemo drugs and I know women who take it because they have ovarian cysts. So what, they can’t get the medical treatment they need because of a pharmacists beliefs?! Ridiculous. I hope more women in small towns where there isn’t many options start using online refill options.

  22. borrow_tunnel
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’ve heard the “Be fruitful and multiply” thing too. But the bible was written when there were soo many fewer people on Earth. Not as many children made it to adulthood so of course they had to compensate by having more children. But come on, there are 6 billion people on the planet. Ya think we need many more?

  23. Halo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Try the CDC, WHO, and assorted medical journals. Where you getting your numbers?
    Seriously though, in the interest of not being a thread derailing jerk, I’m going to suggest that we end this discussion here. We disagree. The numbers do too. Most of us already know what works and what doesn’t.

  24. borrow_tunnel
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    What’s more infuriating is that religious folk seem to pick and choose which rules and traditions from the Bible they want to follow. I mean I came from a religious background and I’ve read a lot of the Bible and if these jerks followed half of what it said, they’d be labelled insane. The bible talks about using slaves, selling their daughters, incest, killing (as a positive thing), etc. . They pick rules to follow which support the views they already have (women having sex for fun is sinful). Why is the one little line “be fruitful and multiply” more important to enforce than the other archane verse forbidding the wearing of braids in church? Picking and choosing, that’s all it is.

  25. ShelbyWoo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    elephux:
    The effectiveness can be up to 99% – but that does not mean that it is the rate for everyone; many factors can drop that rate (the CDC – a highly regarded and reliable source – says 75-99% effectiveness). For natural family planning methods to be highly effective, it requires a lot motivation and great diligence. In other words, yes, natural family planning does provide effective birth control if you put in the work, but, frankly, most people just don’t want to deal with all of that when they can use a much easier method with more reliable efficacy.

  26. Nicole
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Someone else mentioned the availability of Viagara. But remember, Viagara is Christian-ok, because it could actually be used TOWARDS being fruitful and multiplying.
    But guess what? It’s still hypocritcal: here’s why.
    1.) Let’s say an obviously gay male couple enters the pharmacy and wants to buy Viagara. The pharmacist sees them and says s/he refuses to sell the Viagara to the couple because obviously, they aren’t going to use the medication to be “fruitful and multiply.” Would the couple have a case against the pharmacy? I don’t know Virginia law, but I hope so, and something tells me they would.
    2.) Let’s even go one step further. Same situation, but replace the gay males with a straight, elderly couple. Octogenarians. Obviously, this post-menopausal woman can’t multiply. Would the pharmacy have the legal right to deny them Viagara? I bet they wouldn’t!
    So, in other words, this is the EXACT SAME SITUATION in which a pharmacist is refusing to sell medication on the grounds that people should not be allowed to make their own decisions about sexuality. In the BC case, it’s legal, but in the other cases, it’s not?

  27. Nicole
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Also, Someguy, GREAT point. What’s with this sinful Christian population ignoring their other God-given duties? These pharmacists should also refuse to sell tampons because women are supposed to hide out feeling sorry for themselves when they have their periods. Actually, tampons are super sinful, because they can penetrate virgin vaginas. Also, the female pharmacists shouldn’t be at work when they have their periods, they should, again, be sitting at home doing nothing until they are no longer dealing with the “curse of blood.”

  28. FrumiousB
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    does that mean that this pharmacy or Catholic pharmacists will dispense BC for medical reasons?
    No, because individuals frequently act in ways that are not countenanced by the church they believe in. Did you realize that some Catholics even use birth control? The point is, please do not conflate wacky individual actions with wacky institutional doctrine.

  29. KathleenFeline
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    My periods made me anemic, plus I threw up not only during them, but also at the time of ovulation before I went on the pill. And had cramps of course, plus I got migraines. Basically, I had over a week where I could barely do anything, plus another couple unpleasant days in mid-cycle.
    Even on the pill, I still have migraines, but they are milder, relatively speaking, and at least know when they’ll come, and I’m not throwing up all the damn time, and I can generally go to work every day of the shorter period I now have.
    Without the pill, if I happened to be employed at the time, I had to take at least a day off, usually two, because I just plain could not do a damn thing except lay curled up on my side. Then the other period days where I was able to actually drag myself in, I wasn’t always real productive.
    It’s probably no surprise some employers didn’t understand my problem any more than these holier-than-thou pharmacists, but that’s another topic.
    If you have a prescription discount card, does drugstore.com give you that?
    Luckily I don’t have to worry about being denied access currently, but I wonder.

  30. gopher
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    These people are insane.
    If they disagreed with a customers want to fill out their prescription for cancer medicine would they be able to deny them that too? WHY only birth control.
    Women take birth control for many things other than simply birth control. Essentially, if taking lifesaving flu medicine could possibly make me infertile or act in the same way as birth control does, would they be able to deny it to me?
    Oh well, I guess it’d be better to simply die than possibly stepping on these assholes feet and making them NOT force their religion onto me and my life. Would they do this to men too?

  31. gopher
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    These kinds of bullshit allowances only jeopardize public health – especially for women.

  32. gopher
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    “Alas. If I lived in that area I might go in on a day my cramps got real nasty and puke on their floor. ”
    “I almost wish a pharmacist would try to withhold my birth control so I could unleash a wave of feminist fury”
    Feminanimal, Katie ….my sentiments EXACTLY!That would probably be good for publicity.It would highlite media-wise the reality faced by millions of women in their respective states who dont even know it.

  33. NicoleGallo
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    First of all, religion should not be brought into a place of business unless your place of business happens to be working for a church, synagogue, mosque, or another place of religious practice. Second of all, the percentage of unmarried people engaging in sexual intercourse while practicing catholicism has risen greatly. To say that you will need provide these imperative family planning methods is absurd in not seeing the changing of the times that society is going through. Each person has their own choice no matter what their religion is to choice to use these methods. To not provide them as a business owner proves you are a horrible business owner. You do not know the first thing about owning a business and have obviously never taken a class to teach you that owning a business is not about your personal morals and values in life, it is about making money, succeeding, and supplying your customers with everything they can ever possibly need. In conclusion, people have sex. Let it be safe and go along with the words of the great Bob Dylan when he said, “These times are a changin’”.

  34. Shade
    Posted October 23, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    @Halo
    “They are not supposed to make personal judgment calls on your worth as a person, or the effect it may have on your “soul”. . . .
    That’s the distinction, science vs opinion.”
    Exactly. That’s the way it should be, and in fact our professors (all pharmacists themselves), have many times emphasized the importance of patient autonomy. They boiled it down to “Behavior like this devalues the profession and breaks the code of ethics you vowed to adhere to.”
    Like I said before though, we have autonomy too, in being allowed to not dispense things we’re uncomfortable with. I did work with a pharmacist who disliked Plan B; however, if a woman needed it, he simply had one of the other people working sell it to her and instruct her in its use (there were always at least two people working in this pharmacy). One could say that that’s splitting hairs if the woman is getting it either way, but he didn’t see it that way. End result: he didn’t feel like he was compromising his beliefs, and the woman got the medicine she needed.
    I would like to add that it is a little frustrating to see the general bashing of the profession because of the poor choices from a few pushy fundamentalists. (Or the fact that we forget that those fundamentalists exist in other professions as well; there are a few (female!) OB-GYN in my area who will refuse to write married women prescriptions for birth control.)

  35. Emolee
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    This makes me so angry.
    Of course, I am 100% pro birth control to prevent pregancy, but I wonder if these people have never heard of people who take bc for serious medical reasons?
    (Not that preventing pregnancy is not a serious medical reason- it is- but they do not agree with that goal. I assume they do agree with the goal of preventing infertility, severe pain, and death. Or maybe I give them too much credit.)
    What about people like my sister who take “birth control” pills to prevent ovarian cysts? She has already had 2 operations to remove these dangerous cysts, and almost had to have an ovary removed. One reason she takes bc is so she CAN have a child someday. Ironically, no bc would cause her to be unable to be “fruitful and multiply” because she would likely lose both ovaries.

  36. gopher
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    “….there are a few (female!) OB-GYN in my area who will refuse to write married women prescriptions for birth control”
    Fuck, that ought to be SOOO illegal!No one has the right to deny a woman her BC – for ANY reason!

  37. Jaxam
    Posted October 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I admit to skimming, so I may have missed someone else suggesting this. If so, I apologize.
    The only problem I can come up with is a moral and upstanding pharmacy owner profiting from forsaking moral principles.
    So, to avoid that, just sell these items at cost.

  38. keshmeshi
    Posted October 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Unless this pharmacy is propped up with private donations, which I can certainly see happening, I predict it will be out of business shortly. I mean, how stupid can these people be?
    Since women still are relegated to running errands and doing housework for the family, most people who pick up prescriptions are likely women. (There’s also the fact that women are far more likely to go to the doctor than men.) Are women of child-bearing age really going to go to more than one pharmacy to humor these people? I think not. They’ll go to one pharmacy to get all their prescriptions filled, which means these “pro-life” pharmacies’ only customers will be single men and the elderly. Not a recipe for success.

  39. beka
    Posted October 28, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I really don’t get people like these pharmacists who politicise their personal viewpoints. I mean, no one forces devout Muslims or Mormons to work in liquor stores; there’s no reason why these people should work as pharmacists and then refuse to sell BC. If they’d gone into medicine they’d be the gynaes who won’t give AI to lesbians or unmarried women. And then they raise hell. It doesn’t freaking make sense!
    No, because individuals frequently act in ways that are not countenanced by the church they believe in. Did you realize that some Catholics even use birth control? The point is, please do not conflate wacky individual actions with wacky institutional doctrine.
    That’s a good point, though. I wish some pro-choice pharmacies with religious staff would make the news, I always feel bummed when every member of a certain faith (including mine, I’m Catholic) draws flak for something not everyone does. Though I suppose if those people were in the media their religious leaders would come down on them like a ton of bricks.
    Basically, when pharmacies like these exist, everyone gets screwed over. (Women who need BC, of course, get screwed over the most.)

  40. DownAtTheDinghy
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    im tired of being livestock to some people.
    maybe i dont want to leave my uterus available.
    not your decision.
    uggggggghhh
    when will it end????????

  41. leslieanderson81
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    I have to say, this is a weird move for this particular pharmacy. I do believe, in some instances, birth control can be a blessing. Especially, for women with acne problems, it can be tremendously helpful! I don’t really understand this decision.

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