Rachel Peterson from Ionia, Michigan, was denied a prescription after suffering a miscarriage because of the pharmacist's personal moral beliefs.
Now Peterson is demanding that the pharmacist at a Meijer pharmacy in Petoskey, MI, be disciplined for his moral objections preventing her from getting appropriate care, according to Detroit Free Press.
In July, doctors prescribed Peterson misoprostol, which was "crucial for her to take ... in a timely manner to avoid having to undergo a more invasive surgical procedure," according to a claim by the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union.
However, before Peterson could go to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription for misoprostol (brand name Cytotec) – a drug that would induce labor, the pharmacist, later identified by the ACLU as Richard Kalkman, gave her an unnerving phone call.
Kalkman referred to himself as "a good Catholic male" and refused to fill her prescription for misoprostol because "it's used for abortions," despite Peterson informing him that the fetus was no longer viable. (According to Jezebel, misoprostol is one of the drugs used in abortions, and the other is mifepristone.)
When the distressed Peterson requested another pharmacist, or asked for the prescription to be transferred to another pharmacy, Kalkman repeatedly said, "no," and proceeded to "berate" her.
"When you're at one of the lowest moments of your life, you don't expect this sort of demeaning treatment," Peterson told NBC news.
"A pharmacy should not be able to deny patients medication prescribed by their doctors based on the personal beliefs of a particular employee."
In addition to terminating a pregnancy and treatment for postpartum hemorrhage, misoprostol is used for decreasing the risk of serious ulcer complications like bleeding.
Merissa Kovach, a policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, cited that Meijer violated public accommodation laws.
Kovach also believes Peterson was discriminated against because she is a woman.
"I think it's very clear in this case that had Rachel been a man seeking this exact same medication for stomach ulcers, she wouldn't have been turned away for the same reason."
"So Rachel was denied this based on the personal beliefs of this pharmacist and then also because she's a woman"
The ACLU strategist said that Michigan unfortunately lacked "explicit state law" in protecting patients like Peterson.
She told DFP:
"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."
People were upset with Kalkman, whom many believed did not do his job.
A Meijer spokesperson had no comment but told the Detroit paper that Meijer pharmacists were allowed to withhold filling prescriptions due to personal religious beliefs, but they would have to ask another pharmacist to fill the transaction or transfer it to another pharmacy if there was no one else available.
Kalkman failed to accommodate the customer for both requests.
Kovach added, "Any customer should be able to expect the same service regardless of who they are and what their prescription is," but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case at this particular Meijer location.