Morning after' access sought at Kroger
Activists are calling on Kroger Co. pharmacies to make the so-called "morning after" pill available at all of their stores after a Georgia woman said she was denied the contraceptive.
Carrie Baker of Rome, Ga., said a pharmacist at a Kroger store in her hometown would not sell her the controversial drug in December, several months after the federal Food and Drug Administration made it available without a prescription.
Baker and others have planned a Friday news conference to announce a statewide campaign to raise awareness about emergency contraception and call on Kroger and other pharmacies to make it available.
"This is beyond a question of someone's values," said Dionne Vann, Georgia director of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. "This is an over-the-counter product that should be dispensed to women without any question."
Vann said Kroger officials have been unresponsive to Baker, who has tried to contact them repeatedly with concerns. The Rome store does not stock the morning-after pill because the pharmacist at that store opposes it, she said.
Phone calls to Kroger's Cincinnati headquarters by the Associated Press were not returned on Thursday.
Sold as Plan B, emergency contraception is a high dose of the drug found in many regular birth-control pills. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
Girls 17 and younger still need a prescription to buy the drug. The FDA made it available over the counter to adults in August.
Supporters of the drug say widespread availability of it will cut down on unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
Critics argue that the pill encourages promiscuity and unprotected sex. Some consider the pill related to abortion, although it is different from the abortion pill RU-486 and has no effect on women who already are pregnant.
Sadie Fields is director of the Georgia Christian Alliance, formerly the state's branch of the Christian Coalition before splitting with the national group. She said she fears using drugs like Plan B unsupervised could be dangerous.
"Obviously, we don't like anything that interferes in the beginning of life," Fields said. "But I think that women's health concerns should be on that list also.
"There's no drug that does something so dramatic that is not going to have some dangerous potential side effects."
A survey of other Georgia Kroger stores showed that some carry the drug and some do not, Vann said.
"We've found out there is some sort of uneven policy, or lack of policy, on this product," she said.
Fields countered that as an over-the-counter medication, Plan B has no legal protections as to its availability.
"If it's over the counter, it's certainly up to the respective pharmacies whether or not they wish to carry the drug," she said.
Last year, Georgia's Legislature considered a bill that would have allowed pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs they believe terminate pregnancies. The plan passed the Senate but was defeated in the House, with some members arguing it would prevent rape victims from preventing pregnancies.
Other national pharmacy chains have policies dealing with emergency contraception and how to dispense it.
CVS Corp., Rite-Aid Corp. and Walgreen Co. not only offer the pill throughout their networks, but also pledge to ensure that customers can buy Plan B onsite even if a given employee declines to provide service for reasons of conscience.
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