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'Pro-Life' Drugstores Market Beliefs

Robert Semler will run DMC Pharmacy, set to open in Chantilly.
Robert Semler will run DMC Pharmacy, set to open in Chantilly.
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"These are uncharted waters, since the issue of so-called pro-life pharmacies are so new," said Elizabeth Nash, a public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a private, nonprofit organization that researches reproductive issues.

Virginia does not have any laws or regulations that would prohibit a pro-life pharmacy, and is not considering adopting any, according to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Critics also worry that women might unsuspectingly seek contraceptives at such a store and be humiliated, or that women needing the morning-after pill, which is most effective when used quickly, may waste precious time.

"Rape victims could end up in a pharmacy not understanding this pharmacy will not meet their needs," Greenberger said. "We've seen an alarming development of pharmacists over the last several years refusing to fill prescriptions, and sometimes even taking the prescription from the woman and refusing to give it back to her so she can fill it in another pharmacy."

Pharmacists at eight pro-life drugstores contacted by The Washington Post said they would not actively interfere with a woman trying to fill a prescription elsewhere, but none posts signs announcing restrictions or offers to help women get what they need elsewhere.

"If I don't believe something is right, the last thing I want to do is refer to someone else," said Michael G. Koelzer, who owns Kay Pharmacy in Grand Rapids, Mich. "It's up to that person to be able to find it."

Semler, at DMC Pharmacy, said he does not feel that will be an impediment.

"We just say there are other pharmacies in the area they can go to," he said, noting that the Kmart across the parking lot has a pharmacy and that there are several other national chains nearby. "We're not threatening anybody. We're just trying to serve a niche market of like-minded individuals."

But others worry about what will happen if such pharmacies proliferate, especially in rural areas.

"We may find ourselves with whole regions of the country where virtually every pharmacy follows these limiting, discriminatory policies and women are unable to access legal, physician-prescribed medications," said R. Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin lawyer and bioethicist. "We're talking about creating a separate universe of pharmacies that puts women at a disadvantage."


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