Jersey City pharmacy unlawfully denied the sale of emergency contraception to a male customer
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.”