Wal-Mart bows to pressure, to stock abortion-causing drug

WASHINGTON (BP)--Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has dealt a blow to pro-life Americans.

The retail giant announced March 3 that all of its pharmacies would begin stocking Plan B, an “emergency contraceptive” with abortion-causing properties. Wal-Mart had been the largest chain store that did not sell the controversial drug nationwide before its policy reversal, which will take effect March 20.

The action followed decisions by two states requiring Plan B to be sold in Wal-Mart stores and a campaign by abortion rights organizations calling for a policy change.

The decision means at least the top four sellers of pharmaceutical products in the United States all stock Plan B. In 2004, Walgreen ranked first in pharmacy sales, with CVS, Wal-Mart and Rite Aid in order from second to fourth, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

The Wal-Mart action will reduce dramatically options for some pro-life Americans who seek to shop at pharmacies that do not sell “emergency contraceptives.” With more than 3,000 pharmacies nationwide, Wal-Mart operates in some communities where there are few alternatives.

Plan B, as well as another “morning-after” pill known as Preven, is basically a heavier dose of birth control pills. Under the regimen, a woman takes two pills within 72 hours of sexual intercourse and another dose 12 hours later. The “morning-after” pill not only works to restrict ovulation in a woman, but it can act after conception, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers point out. The method can block implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

Previously, Wal-Mart stocked Plan B only in its pharmacies in Illinois and Massachusetts, where it was required. The Wal-Mart announcement of its policy change came less than three weeks after the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy voted Feb. 14 to require the chain to stock the product. After the Massachusetts action, Wal-Mart said it was re-evaluating its policy nationwide.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ruled March 2 that state’s insurance plan for its 188,000 employees and retirees should not cover prescriptions at Wal-Mart unless the chain stocks the “morning-after” pill, the Associated Press reported.

“We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead,” said Ron Comiuk, Wal-Mart’s vice president of pharmacy, in a written release. “Because of this, and the fact that this is [approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration], we feel it is difficult to justify being the country’s only major pharmacy chain not selling it.

“This decision has been made after careful consideration and in the belief that we are doing what is best for the business, while respecting our individual associates.”

A Wal-Mart spokesperson told Baptist Press March 6 the company would not be granting interviews or making further comments on the decision.

Wal-Mart announced it would continue to permit pharmacists who conscientiously object to filling prescriptions for Plan B to refer customers to another pharmacist or pharmacy, except where such a policy is against the law.

Douglas Scott, president of Life Decisions International, said Wal-Mart’s executives had chosen to “turn their backs on American families.”

“It is up to the pro-family movement to let Wal-Mart know that the decision is not in its best interest from either a moral or business perspective,” Scott said in a written release. “No company that chooses to sell such a controversial and deadly substance should be given a free ride.”

Abortion-rights leaders applauded Wal-Mart’s decision to sell Plan B but criticized its maintenance of a conscientious objection policy.

“Stocking E.C. [the emergency contraceptive] is a good first step,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a written statement. “But women need to know they can get their contraceptive prescriptions filled immediately at Wal-Mart.”

PPFA, the National Organization for Women and NARAL Pro-choice America applied pressure to Wal-Mart, with NARAL sending the company more than 31,000 petitions.

Illinois began the state pressure on Wal-Mart to change its policy on “emergency contraceptives” last year when Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, ordered Plan B’s sale in all pharmacies.

The FDA has approved prescription use of both Plan B and Preven. The FDA is considering whether to permit over-the-counter sale of Plan B without a prescription to women 16 years of age and older.


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