A Smyrna man who says he was denied access to emergency contraceptives at a local Walgreens has taken his case to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Willie Green claims that on Nov. 22, a pharmacy manager at a Smyrna Walgreens refused to sell him emergency contraceptives because he was male. She informed him that he was free to purchase it from a neighboring pharmacy.
A letter the ACLU addressed to Walgreens' attorneys said that the following day, Green called the store manager to complain about the incident. The manager assured him the situation would be handled and that it wouldn’t happen again. Green was doubtful that the situation had been resolved, so he came back to the store at a later date and attempted to buy the medication from the same pharmacist. Again the pharmacy manger refused to sell him the drugs this time citing her religious belief that she couldn’t sell the product to a man because emergency contraception is an abortion. Only after a lengthy debate in which Green explained he’d spoken to the store manager did she allow a male sales representative to process the transaction.
Emergency contraceptives are birth control measures taken after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy. According to the ACLU, The medication's efficacy is time-sensitive and decreases every 12 hours. Chara Fisher Jackson, ACLU of Georgia’s legal director, said obstacles like the one Green faced are unnecessary.
“I think this is just a gender discrimination issue,” Jackson told Smyrna-Vinings Patch. “Refusing to sell someone a particular drug because they’re male because that’s a personal decision you’ve made—not what the FDA recommends or the guidelines that have been set and not your company policies—it’s just a discrimination issue. There were times where people said, ‘We don’t want to sell things to people of certain races.’ And that wasn’t permitted. You can’t really make a decision based on someone’s gender whether or not to provide them with certain information and certain medications. That’s really not what Walgreen’s policy is and not what the law is.”
The ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to Walgreens’ attorneys asking them to investigate the matter. Robert Elfinger, a Walgreens media representative, said he could not yet substantiate Green’s claim, but said that the instance described in the letter was not in keeping with Walgreens’ protocol.
“It is our company’s policy to sell this product to both men and women who are 17 and older,” Elfinger said in an email. “We will investigate what happened and, if confirmed, we will remind employees of our policy.”
This is not the first time the ACLU has brought an issue like this to Walgreens’ attention. ACLU representatives also sent letters to Walgreens’ attorneys after similar incidents occurred in Texas and Mississippi.
“The ACLU national office received assurances when they did this before in Texas that adequate training would be done,” Jackson said. “The policies that Walgreens had established would be reinforced. We hope that the same thing will happen here.”
Green could not be reached for further comment about the incident.