The ACLU-NJ today received a letter from the headquarters of Rite Aid, apologizing to Andrew Andrade, an ACLU-NJ client and Jersey City man who tried to buy the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, from the pharmacy in April. Staffers at the Jersey City store refused to sell the medicine to Andrade and erroneously told him they were not allowed to sell Plan B to men.
Rite Aid said in its letter it is investigating the matter and interviewing the store’s associates and managers. It also stated it is reviewing Rite Aid’s policy and procedure for dispensing Plan B, which follows FDA guidelines, with the pharmacy associates in the store.
“We are pleased that Rite Aid has responded swiftly and taken appropriate action,” said Jeanne LoCicero, deputy legal director for the ACLU-NJ. “It is absolutely critical that pharmacists not discriminate and understand FDA guidelines when it comes to dispensing medicines, especially when it is emergency contraception where time is of the essence.”
Andrade, 25, said he hopes this incident does not repeat itself.
“I’m grateful for Rite Aid’s response,” Andrade said. “I also hope that men out there now know the law and their rights when it comes to accessing emergency contraception.”
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) announced today that it has called upon Rite Aid to ensure that its Jersey City store cease its discriminatory policy of refusing to sell emergency contraception to men. The ACLU-NJ sent a letter written on behalf of Jersey City resident Andrew Andrade asking for the Pennsylvania-based national chain to apologize for refusing to sell him emergency contraception based on his gender and seeking corrective action for its employees’ violations of FDA guidelines and New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws.
“This pharmacy’s refusal to sell emergency contraception to men flouts the FDA’s clear guidelines that anyone who is at least 17 years old and has valid ID can make these purchases and it amounts to discrimination,” said ACLU-NJ Deputy Director Jeanne LoCicero, who sent the letter on behalf of Andrade. “Couples who share responsibility for healthcare decisions should not face unnecessary obstacles. Pharmacists and other staff do not have the personal discretion to interfere with the fundamental rights surrounding some of the most intimate decisions a person can make.”
When Andrade tried to buy Plan B, an FDA-approved brand of emergency contraception, at his local Jersey City Rite Aid on April 23, the staff member behind the pharmacy counter refused to sell it to him. Another staff member claimed incorrectly that the law prohibited men from buying emergency contraception, and the pharmacy manager repeated this mistake and confirmed the store’s policy of not selling it to men. Immediately after the experience at Rite Aid, he was able to purchase it at a nearby pharmacy without incident. The ACLU-NJ’s letter requested Rite Aid’s corporate policy on emergency contraception, the steps Rite Aid plans to put in place to avoid similar situations in the future, and an apology to Andrade.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent anyone else from going through a similar experience,” said Andrade. “I was aware of the law, but how many other people aren’t? In a stressful situation where time is of the essence, the last thing anyone needs is to feel demoralized by having their rights violated.” Andrade, a graduate student, decided to make the trip to the pharmacy that day because he has a more flexible daytime schedule than his girlfriend, who works full-time.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. The ACLU has fought gender discrimination from pharmacies in other states that refused to sell emergency contraception to men, although this letter marks the first communication with Rite Aid. In January, the ACLU of Texas contacted CVS on behalf of a Mesquite-area man turned away when he tried to buy emergency contraception for his wife. The ACLU has also contacted Walgreens on several occasions, the most recent in March 2012, after stores in Georgia and Alabama refused to sell emergency contraception to men. As a result of pressure from advocates, Wal-Mart introduced a storewide policy requiring its pharmacies to fill valid requests for birth control, including emergency contraception after it had failed to fulfill them.
“Pharmacies must train their personnel to respect the rights of consumers. Blocking access to emergency contraception shows a disregard for the law and people’s rights,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. “Boyfriends and husbands who care enough about the women in their lives to help them at the pharmacy counter shouldn’t face these kinds of hurdles.”
NEWARK – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) released a midterm report card for Gov. Chris Christie today (182k PDF), issuing mostly low marks for his administration’s handling of critical civil liberties issues such as reproductive freedom and free speech.
The report card examines Christie’s record on an array of civil liberties issues during his first two years in office. The ACLU-NJ issued a similar report card for Newark Mayor Cory Booker (229k PDF) in 2009 during his first term in office.
“Christie has two years to turn a mediocre civil liberties record into a testament to individual rights,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. “The people of New Jersey expect a leader who will stand up for their freedoms, not one who will let them know that despite his unfair policies, his heart is in the right place. It’s time for Gov. Christie’s good intentions to turn into policies that strengthen our rights and improve our lives.”
The ACLU-NJ issued the following grades:
Newark, N.J. - For five decades, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey has been a gale force in the most critical social debates of our time and a vigilant guardian of civil rights for all.
In June, the ACLU-NJ will mark the 50th anniversary of its founding and celebrate its standing as one of the largest and most active affiliates in the nation. Created to counter the growing pressures on civil liberties in the state, the affiliate's first official meeting took place on the night of June 16, 1960. Since its start, the affiliate, which has continued to keep its headquarters in Newark, has seen its membership multiply nearly 10-fold, from 1,600 people to more than 15,000.
"We believe that the liberties in the Bill of Rights belong to every American, to all the people in New Jersey regardless of their political beliefs, race, religion or national origin," ACLU-NJ founder and longtime President Emil Oxfeld said in the original press release announcing the formation of the state's affiliate. "We believe these freedoms must be exercised if democracy in our state is to grow and thrive."
Oxfeld went on to list issues that desperately needed attention at the time - due process, racial discrimination, the separation of church and state, and freedom from censorship - all principles the ACLU still defends daily.
"While some of the issues raised in our cases over the years seem archaic by today's standards, many haven't changed at all," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs, who has led the affiliate since 1999, including during the biggest membership spike in its history. "The law has advanced remarkably in areas like women's rights, lesbian and gay rights, and safeguarding personal privacy, but with issues like free speech, police practices and religious freedom, no fight ever stays won."
"The ACLU of New Jersey has been a leader in the crucial civil liberties battles of our time," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the national ACLU. "While each new era brings a wave of assaults on freedom, the ACLU of New Jersey responds swiftly and decisively, protecting the rights of all Garden State residents. It has proven its value on the American political landscape."
Since opening its doors and springing into action - its first official undertaking was commending the Clifton Library's stance against banning books like Lady Chatterley's Lover - the ACLU-NJ has doggedly worked for justice and equality in New Jersey.
In its first decade the ACLU-NJ took strong action following the 1967 Newark Rebellion. Staffers took to the streets in the aftermath, painstakingly cataloguing police abuses to the ACLU-NJ would refer to in its demands for reform. The New Jersey affiliate also emerged even more progressive than the national ACLU, becoming one of the first state affiliates to take a stand against the Vietnam War.
Since those early years, the ACLU-NJ has grown into one of the country's largest and most active state affiliates, with a record of milestones that has earned it a role on the national stage. Among its accomplishments, the ACLU-NJ:
The ACLU-NJ is celebrating the clients, attorneys, leaders and volunteers - many involved in the cases highlighted above - who have built its legacy, from its founders to its future. The stories of these 50 Faces of Liberty can be found at the ACLU-NJ website, http://www.aclu-nj.org
"Society has changed dramatically since our founding, but we've never lost the fire that fuels the ACLU's advocacy," Jacobs added. "We can't always predict what challenges lie ahead for liberty in a changing world, but whatever they are, the ACLU stands ready to defend the fundamental rights of ordinary Americans."
The year-long commemoration will culminate November 4 at the NJ Freedom Fest: A night of laughter and liberties, hosted by comedian Jimmy Tingle and featuring faces from the ACLU past and present, to be held at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick.
NEWARK - The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey applauded New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram for signing onto a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's Health Care Denial Rule on the same day the national ACLU announced a separate lawsuit on behalf of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) against the same rule. The rule, promulgated in the last throes of the Bush administration, allows a broad range of health care workers to refuse to provide health services, even in emergencies.
"The attorneys general play a critical role in fighting this rule, and we applaud Anne Milgram's initiative to step into the fray as the ACLU has," said ACLU-NJ Legal Director Edward Barocas. "The federal government has always been able to balance both patients' rights and the personal beliefs of medical professionals, and this rule is the Bush administration's way of toppling the balance away from patients' needs. This rule puts access to contraception in jeopardy and leaves women in a medical limbo where they have to question whether they'll get the services they need in time, if at all."
In addition to the ACLU's lawsuit on behalf of NFPRHA and the lawsuit brought by the six states' attorneys general led by Connecticut and including New Jersey, a third lawsuit was filed today by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut.
As stated in today's legal papers, the rule significantly undermines the ability of millions of women and men in the United States to access essential family planning, reproductive and other health care services and information. It expressly permits a broad range of health care workers and facilities to refuse to provide services, information, and counseling, potentially even in emergency situations. At the same time, it fails to require refusing providers to either notify their employers or their patients of their objections to providing care.
"Experts, medical professionals and the patients whose rights this rule limits all agree that this policy will endanger lives and sacrifice patients' individual liberties," Barocas added. "The Bush administration should be ashamed that it spent its last months slipping in last-minute policies that put Americans' health at risk."
During a 30-day comment period, HHS received more than 200,000 responses. The overwhelming majority opposed the rule, including major medical associations such as the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women's health organizations, members of Congress, state governors and attorneys general, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, religious advocates, and the general public.
The final rule fails to address many of the concerns raised in these comments, including whether the rule prevents states from enforcing their own laws enacted to protect access to reproductive health care, whether the rule allows providers to refuse care even in emergency situations, and whether women seeking family planning services at federally funded health centers are still assured counseling for abortion care if they request it.
The Department of Health and Human Services promulgated the rule on December 19, 2008.
The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association is a vital membership organization representing the nation's dedicated family planning providers-including state, county, and local health departments; family planning councils; hospital-based clinics; and other private nonprofit family planning organizations and providers.
The ACLU's complaint is available at: http://www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/gen/38321lgl20090115.html
TRENTON, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today applauded Governor Jon Corzine's decision to sign a bill into law that will help ensure women's ability to access birth control at the pharmacy. The bill, sponsored by Senator Fred Madden and Assemblywoman Linda Stender, makes New Jersey one of a handful of states to protect patient's ability to access prescriptions at the pharmacy.
"Today's law strikes an important balance between protecting patient's health and religious freedom," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the ACLU-NJ.
The pharmacy access law requires pharmacies to fill prescriptions for in-stock drugs or devices without undue delay, despite the sincerely held moral, philosophical or religious beliefs of an individual pharmacist. Pharmacies employing pharmacists who object to filling prescriptions can accommodate the objection so long as the pharmacy ensures that customers receive their prescriptions, including birth control, at the pharmacy without undue delay.
"Access to safe and effective contraception is a central component of basic health care for women," said Jacobs. "This law will go a long way toward ending sex discrimination at the pharmacy."
The ACLU's long-held advocacy for both reproductive rights and religious liberty uniquely positions the organization to address this issue. In April, the ACLU released a report, "Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy," which examines legal questions raised when a pharmacist or pharmacy refuses to provide contraception based on a religious objection.
The report is available online at: http://tinyurl.com/2pms2q
TRENTON, NJ - The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded a decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissing a medical malpractice lawsuit that could have improperly forced physicians to give a non-medical, value-laden speech to their patients before performing an abortion. The ACLU called the decision a victory for reproductive rights and free speech in New Jersey.
"We are pleased that the court dismissed this frivolous lawsuit, which had no basis in law or medicine," said Brigitte Amiri, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "This case was nothing more than an underhanded attempt to turn doctors into ideological mouthpieces and subject women to non-medical moral judgments."
In 1998, Rosa Acuna brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor in New Jersey, claiming that he had failed to properly inform her at the time of her abortion that the embryo was a "complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being" with whom she had "an existing relationship," and his failure to do so caused her emotional distress. According to court papers, Acuna, who had two children prior to her abortion, stated that at the time of her abortion she understood that she was pregnant and signed a form consenting to the procedure.
"Today's victory sends a message that New Jersey will not tolerate backdoor efforts to curtail reproductive rights or free speech," said Ed Barocas, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Jersey. "We will not allow the anti-choice lobby to force its moral or theological beliefs upon others and to intimidate doctors or women with lawsuits that are without merit."
In its unanimous decision, the court noted, "we know of no common law duty requiring a physician to instruct the woman that the embryo is an 'existing human being,' and suggesting that an abortion is tantamount to murder. There is not even remotely a consensus among New Jersey's medical community or citizenry that plaintiff's assertions are medical facts, as opposed to firmly held, moral philosophical, and religious beliefs."
Acuna's lawsuit is one of three instances where anti-choice foes have insisted that doctors must read a similar script to their patients prior to performing an abortion. A class-action medical malpractice lawsuit with similar claims was recently brought in Illinois, and in South Dakota, reproductive rights advocates are currently challenging a law that may require doctors to read language identical to that found in this case.
Today's decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court only reaches the issue of whether Acuna's malpractice case should go to a jury trial. Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if it will consider a separate issue in the case regarding the legitimacy of a federal equal protection challenge involving New Jersey's wrongful death statute.
Today's case is Acuna v. Turkish (Docket No. 59, 525). Lawyers on the ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief include Amiri and Talcott Camp of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Barocas of the ACLU of New Jersey.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union today announced a multi-state action calling on the federal government to fix medical inaccuracies in federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. Eleven ACLU affiliates sent letters to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services alerting the agency to problematic curricula in their states and asking HHS to take steps to remedy the situation.
"States all across the country, including New Jersey are telling the government enough is enough," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. "It is time for the federal government to start properly monitoring the content of the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that it funds."
In New Jersey, the Peer Challenge program is of particular concern. The Peer Challenge curriculum inaccurately states that condoms fail to prevent pregnancy one-sixth of the time, and that the failure rate for preventing sexually transmitted disease is "far worse" because both sexes can get sexually transmitted diseases. It falsely states that "[s]ome of the latest findings are revealing up to a 45% condom failure rate in preventing the transmission of the deadly AIDS virus," and that condoms provide "little or no protection" against herpes and HPV. It claims that the "term safe sex is actually a myth" and that "condoms have a 16% failure rate for preventing pregnancy during the first year of use and in some groups of teenagers this failure rate rises to 36%. So the odds are good that pregnancy will eventually result even while using condoms."
In 2005, the most recent year for which information could be obtained, Peer Challenge was offered in the North Wildwood School District, Middle Township School District, Ocean City School District, Lower Cape May School District, Upper Township School District and Wildwood City School District.
Today's action comes on the heels of an April letter the ACLU sent to HHS, which said three federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Me, My World, My Future; Sexuality, Commitment & Family; and Why kNOw, along with HHS' own 4parents.gov Web site and pamphlet, Parents, Speak Up!, all violate a federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness. In that letter, the ACLU called on HHS to immediately remedy the violations or face a legal challenge.
"It is clear from today's action that federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula across the country contain medically inaccurate information about the importance of condoms in preventing pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease," said Julie Sternberg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Spreading misinformation about condoms in many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs violates federal law and endangers teens' health."
The ACLU affiliates participating in today's action include: Alaska Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of Florida, ACLU of Illinois, ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, ACLU of Kentucky, ACLU of Louisiana, ACLU of New Jersey, Rhode Island ACLU, ACLU of Tennessee, and ACLU of Texas.
Last week, the ACLU asked HHS and the Oregon Department of Human Services to investigate evidence of misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote one faith over others in an abstinence-only-until-marriage program Stop and Think. The ACLU threatened to pursue legal action if sufficient measures are not taken to correct any problems.
In early April, a federally commissioned study by a Princeton, N.J., think tank was released showing that, notwithstanding the more than a billion dollars that the federal government has poured into the programs since 1996, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don't work. The study looked at several federally funded programs and found that teens who participated in them were just as likely to have sex as teens who did not participate. Furthermore, these students had first intercourse at the same age and the same number of sexual partners as students who did not participate.
Currently, no federal funds are dedicated to supporting sexuality education programs that both teach abstinence and include complete and medically accurate information about how to use contraceptives effectively, despite evidence that these programs can delay sexual activity and increase contraceptive use among teens.
NEWARK, N.J. -- The American Civil Liberties Union today called on the New Jersey Supreme Court to protect women's reproductive rights and physicians' free speech rights. The ACLU urged the court to overturn a lower court medical malpractice decision that would have the effect of improperly forcing physicians to give a non-medical, value-laden speech to their patients before performing an abortion.
"Forcing women to listen to non-medical, moral judgments from their doctors prior to an abortion violates both state and federal constitutions," said Talcott Camp, a deputy director with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, who argued the ACLU's position before the court today. "Doctors should not be compelled to act as an ideological mouthpiece when caring for their patients."
In 1998, Rosa Acuna brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor in New Jersey, claiming that he had failed to properly inform her at the time of her abortion that the embryo was a "complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being" with whom she had "an existing relationship," and his failure to do so caused her emotional distress.
According to court papers, Acuna, who had two children prior to her abortion, stated that at the time of her abortion she understood that she was pregnant and signed a form consenting to the procedure.
"This case is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to enact an extreme biased-counseling law -- something our legislature and governor have refused to do," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs.
Today's argument before the New Jersey Supreme Court focused on whether Acuna's case should go to a jury trial.
The ACLU argued that an unfavorable decision in this case could extend far beyond abortion, including interfering with physicians prescribing certain birth control methods, pharmacists dispensing birth control pills and emergency contraception, and emergency room personnel treating sexual assault survivors.
Today's case is Acuna v. Turkish. Lawyers on the friend-of-the-court brief include Camp and Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and Ed Barocas, legal director of the ACLU-NJ.
TRENTON, N.J. -- Advocates for comprehensive sex education praised Governor Corzine's decision today to reject onerous and overly restrictive federal funding to provide abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in New Jersey. The federally designed abstinence-only-until-marriage program violates students' rights, embraces sexist stereotypes, isolates GLBT youth, promulgates religious views and contradicts New Jersey's core curriculum for stress-abstinence comprehensive sex education.
"All students have a right to accurate and honest sexuality education and Governor Corzine's actions speak to the heart of the matter: we must not mislead and misinform our young people when it comes to sexuality education, because to do so leaves them at great risk" said C. Danene Sorace, Director of Answer at Rutgers University, a leading national organization dedicated to providing and promoting comprehensive adolescent sexuality education. "The mandates that come with the federal funding are simply not right for New Jersey. We refuse to leave our young people in the dark about their sexual health," continued Sorace.
In an October 24 letter from Fred M. Jacobs, Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Lucille Davy, Commissioner for the New Jersey Department of Education, to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, the state of New Jersey informed the federal government of its decision, explaining that the abstinence-only-until-marriage guidelines contradict the core curriculum content standard in comprehensive sex education that New Jersey has had in place for more than 25 years. Moreover, the governor's office cautioned that accepting federal abstinence-only dollars may in fact cost the state money because students may require additional sex education to clarify the partial and misinformation that is taught in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
New Jersey has received abstinence-only-until-marriage funding since 1997. In past years, the federal government allowed states the flexibility to run programs in a way that was consistent with its core curriculum content standards. This year, however, the federal government is requiring strict adherence to all the elements of the abstinence program.
"We are pleased that New Jersey has put the health and well-being of our teenagers first," said Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which urged the governor's office to reject the abstinence-only funding. "We need to put resources into programs that work, include medically accurate information and protect teens from discrimination."
Recently, the Society for Adolescent Medicine, in one of the most exhaustive reviews to date of government-funded abstinence-only programs, rejected the current administration's policy that promotes abstinence as the only sexual health prevention strategy for young people.
Reports show that many abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula used by federally funded programs contain false and misleading information and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Alarmingly, these curricula also misrepresent the effectiveness of contraceptives by vastly understating the effectiveness of condoms at protecting against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and preventing unintended pregnancy. Such misinformation is particularly alarming given that each year in the United States, nearly 9.1 million 15- to 24-year olds are infected with an STD and more than 800,000 15- to 19-year olds become pregnant.
"New Jersey's decision to reject the dictates of Washington ideologues in favor of its own state's laws sends a clear message that Washington should stop playing politics and give states the flexibility to craft and fund programs that meet their own needs in helping youth make good decisions," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US, a leading sexuality education advocacy group. "New Jersey is not alone, joining other states like Maine, Pennsylvania and California, in taking a principled stand in turning back funds tied to these policies of extremism," Smith continued.