Wal-Mart Pharmacists Failing to Do Their Job

By Katy Lesowski of Portland, Oregon. Katy is a research coordinator at OHSU and a founding member of the Oregon Bus Project.

As if we needed another reason not to shop at Wal-Mart... A letter I wrote them:

Dear Wal-Mart Pharmacies,

All over the country I have noticed a disturbing trend of pharmacies refusing to fill women's prescriptions for birth control. When a woman and her doctor decide that a prescription for contraception is in the woman's best interest, a third party has no right to override that decision. Pharmacies must ensure that patients get their doctor-prescribed medication without delay or inconvenience. I ask that your company assure me and your other customers that no woman seeking prescription contraception will be turned away by your company's pharmacies.

No doubt a majority of your customers take for granted that women should be able to receive their birth control despite the personal beliefs of the individual pharmacist. Timely access to contraception is central to women's health, autonomy, and equality. We must trust women and their doctors to make their own reproductive health decisions.

I thank you, in advance, for protecting your customer's health by ensuring your pharmacy will guarantee women have unhindered access to their prescribed medications.

Thank you for your attention and support.

Katy Lesowski

...and Wal-Mart's response:

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting us at Walmart.com regarding women's prescriptions for birth control. Your comments and concerns are very important to us as we strive to meet your needs.

Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.

Again, we thank you for your comments regarding this issue.

Customer Service at Walmart.com

  • Kent (unverified)

    This is the most outrageous sort of interference with personal choice. I thought this sort of thing was limited to places like here in Texas but if WalMart is doing it then it is nationwide. My guess is that WalMart is the only pharmacy in many rural areas. Certainly the only after-hours pharmacy.

    I see three solutions to this sort of thing.

    1. Insurance companies need to step up and refuse to do business with pharmacy chains that fail to fill their obligations. What do you want to bet that WalMart and every other pharmacy chain in the US reverses their policy overnight if Blue Cross/Blue Shield stops working with pharmacies that do this?

    2. This is obviously another argument for taking some of these medications off prescription. But that's another fight with the FDA.

    3. Internet pharmacies. Seems like this is a huge marketing plus for internet pharmacies. Some of the big internet pharmacies should be running TV ads showing a young woman trying to get birth control at her town's pharmacy but instead get brow-beat and lectured by a scary Tom DeLay clone in a white lab coat who chases her out of the store. Gotta think that sort of ad would really boost hits and sales for internet pharmacies. Don't want your pharmacist judging you and invading your privacy? Got to drugs.com (or whatever).

  • Becky (unverified)

    Some women need to take birth control hormones for medical reasons, not to prevent pregnancy. They can really suffer without the medication. To deprive them of access to it, or to force them to explain their sometimes embarrassing conditions in order to persuade a pharmacist to give them their medication, is outrageous. Further, for any pharmacist to come between me and my doctor and the decisions we have made together crosses the line. If they question the prescription they should call the doctor to confirm it, but to override a doctor is arrogant, to say the least.

    That said, if Wal-Mart is going to behave in this way, women who need their birth control prescriptions filled will figure out very quickly that Wal-Mart is not their friend and they will take their business elsewhere. I can't imagine a situation where it is economically viable to build a Wal-Mart in a town that is too small to offer alternative pharmacies for filling prescriptions. If you can actually find a town that only has a Wal-Mart pharmacy within reasonable driving distance, then I would concede this point, but I can't imagine such a scenario.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Just curious, does Oregon law address any requirement of pharmacists to fill a legal prescription (assuming, of course, that they have the medication in stock, etc.)?

    Seems to me that if they don't stock something (such as emergency contraception) then there's not much of an argument here. They can't sell you what they don't have. But if company policy is to allow pharmacists to refuse service that they are legally obligated to provide, then they've got big trouble.

    However, if there's no legal obligation to provide the service (hence my question), it seems to me that Wal-Mart's policy is about as much as you can expect. If the pharmacist doesn't want to fill your prescription, then he or she is supposed to find you someone who will. Again, barring a legal obligation, that seems like an entirely reasonable approach.

    They aren't saying that the company won't fill your prescription, just that they won't make any specific employee fill the prescription.

    Would you want your employer to force you to do something that you found morally objectionable, and which you would not otherwise be legally bound to do?

    I'm not saying that I support the decision of any pharmacist not to fill a legal prescription. But unless they are required to do so by law, I do support a company's right to implement a policy such as this.

    And I support your right not to shop at Wal-Mart if you don't like their policy.

    Just curious, were you actually denied a prescription by a pharmacist at a Wal-Mart? Based on the lead sentence in your article, I'm guessing you don't shop at Wal-Mart anyhow...

  • Jon (unverified)

    I thought they have the right to refuse service to anyone, much like any other company. I dont think doctors have to see you either.

    I know this same issue has come up with certain pharmacists refusing to dispense drugs for assisted suicide as well.

    Although if they are the only pharmacy in a rural area, that might be a different thing altogether.

    As for medical reasons, I hardly think that "emergency" contraceptives are being taken by women for "medical" reasons.

  • afs (unverified)

    From Real Time with Bill Mahar (4/8)...

    "...And finally, New Rule: Pharmacists have to fill prescriptions. As our audience seems to already know, more and more American pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control because of their personal moral objections. Hey, you know what would really teach us a lesson? If you took off your pretend doctor jacket and got another job.

    Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe cutting off the pill doesn't even go far enough. Yeah, it's high time activist drugstores stopped coddling sluts on every aisle. Let's not sell any more makeup either. A good woman doesn't paint herself. And no more deodorant. You should smell bad. Keep the boys from getting ideas. And no suntan lotion. I've seen what happens at the MTV Beach House, you whore. You want to avoid melanoma, buy a veil.

    Why is this country becoming Utah?! You know, I know the conservatives are always saying that the coastal elites don't really get it about them because we just fly over. Okay, maybe. But, you know what? You guys don't get us either. We need to %#[email protected] Refusal to provide birth control threatens our economy and our very way of life here in Southern California. There's a lot of hot chicks out here, man. We need birth control! I mean, seriously, how do you think movies get made?

    Now, of course, I know the other side is saying, yes, but this is a moral issue. Yeah, but the problem is, not everyone gets their morals from the same book. You go by the book that says slavery is okay but sex is wrong until after marriage, at which point it becomes a blessed sacrament between a husband and the wife who is withholding it.

    In conclusion, let me say to all the activist pharmacists out there, the ones who think sex is bad probably because sex with them always is. Fellas, a pharmacist is not a law-giver, not even a doctor. In the medical pecking order, you rank somewhere in between a chiropractor and a tree surgeon.

    You don't answer to a law above the laws of men. You work for Sav-On...."


  • (Show?)

    Hey Lesowski: We all know that Wal-Mart sucks. The only thing they hate more than women in general are their are own employees, who are treated more poorly and paid much less than any other profession (other than political pay). So, why are you still shopping there? Because it's so much more convenient than your neighborhood pharmacy...? Why do you hate the workers so much?

  • Dave J. (unverified)

    If I ever encounter one of these pharmacists who is refusing to supply birth control for "moral reasons," I'll ask him/her how he/she can work for a company that supports China's policy of mandatory abortions. Something tells me there's no guilt when it comes time to cash the monthly paycheck.

  • Sally (unverified)

    Of course it is too cheap and easy to say that someone should open a pharmacy and refuse to fill viagra or cialis prescriptions because there are already enough big dicks in the world.

    That's cheap and easy. It would be almost ironic to find a pharmacy (or pharmacist) that would fill those and would not provide birth control.

    Let the hunt go forward!

    (This policy/story did not start with WalMart.)

  • (Show?)

    And I support your right not to shop at Wal-Mart if you don't like their policy.

    How kind of you. Tell that to the very high percentage of rural women who's only nearby pharmacy is Walmart. Also, while we're on the subject, though abortion is supposedly legal in this country, it's unavailable in something like 80% of the counties in the U.S.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Albert, I will gladly tell that to anybody you like. Your freedom to do something does not impose an obligation on anyone else to help you exercise that freedom.

    For example, it is legal in this country for me to be a millionaire. To whom should I address my complaint that I am not, in fact, a millionaire?

    Living in a rural area involves a number of tradeoffs with regard to the availability of goods and services. It is in the very nature of the rural location, smaller populations just can't support the diversity of businesses that larger populations can. And just because any particular business is the only possible local supplier of a good or service does not obligate that business to actually supply the good or service. If they were smart, they'd meet the needs of their limited customer base. But there's no law that says a business has to make smart decisions.

    And there's no law that says anybody has to live in a rural area with limited consumer choices. Which, in any event, shouldn't stop anybody from using a mail order service for regular prescription drugs even if they don't have internet access, no matter where they live.

    Again, this mostly sounds like another whine about Wal-Mart. Which is fine, knock yourself out. I'm no fan of Wal-Mart either. If you and I don't like them, we don't have to shop there. If enough people agree with us, they'll change their policies or go out of business.

    If not enough people agree with us to make them change or put them out of business, we really don't have much room to complain, do we?

  • Big T (unverified)

    These " activist" pharmacists shouldn't be handing out any prescriptions at all. How dare they try to reverse my god given disease or medical problem. Isn't everything in our lives controlled by god? Or is a medical problem the work of the devil?

    They seem to pick and choose where their morals lie.

  • (Show?)

    Hi David and Band,

    If Walmart were just business as normal, I'd say you have a great point. At what point when your body is being eaten by cancer do you say enough is enough, though and do something about it? Walmart is the biggest retailer. Like cancer, they are now trying to be everywhere. And they'll break any law, screw their workers, subsidize products in one area until they kill off local competition - and use millions to fight against communities that don't want them.

    They're a perfect example of why corporate charters should be revoked.

    And in this case, pharmacists not being willing to fill prescriptions, it gets dangerous. If I can't get my medication (and Walmart is the no. 3 pharmacy in the nation) because a pharmacist believes it's wrong, we're in trouble. Because not everything can be done mail order, the whole point of emergency contraception is that you need it now! not 3 days from now.

    Here are some more reasons this is a problem.

  • rebellingboxer (unverified)

    David Wright: "...I'm no fan of Wal-Mart either...."

    Yeah, but you find some way to support every single extremist right wing thing Walmart does, David.

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    Jesse, I said, "As if we needed another reason not to shop at Walmart." I've never even stepped foot in one. And I still think you're beautiful and fabulous. -Kt

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Albert, I take your points, whether or not I agree with them. But I'm not sure what your suggested remedy is, however. Government takeover of Wal-Mart? Prosecution of Wal-Mart under anti-trust laws? Regulations requiring businesses in rural areas to provide certain products or services?

    At any rate, in the case of "emergency contraception" apparently Wal-Mart doesn't carry it anyhow. So it's not a question of any particular pharmacist deciding not to fill that prescription. What remedy do you suggest for that situation? Do you wish to compel Wal-Mart to carry EC? If so, on what grounds?

    It seems to me this basically all gets back to individual choice and personal responsibility. With very limited exceptions, the "need" for contraception, emergency or otherwise, is self-induced. I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all, nor am I trying to make a morality argument here by any means. I'm all for sex any which way you want to have it. But I am saying that in most all cases the responsibility for the situation where an individual finds herself unable to get EC lies ultimately with that individual, not with Wal-Mart.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    First and foremost -- is there some sort of rule on Blue Oregon that says any examination of why Wal-Mart does what it does is de facto a measure of support of it? When did we pass that rule?

    If you want to just condemn Wal-Mart, that's fine. That's not very intelligent, but it will certainly make you feel better.

    Now, as to substance...

    "they'll break any law, screw their workers, subsidize products in one area until they kill off local competition - and use millions to fight against communities that don't want them."

    If Wal-Mart is breaking laws, why aren't they being prosecuted? One would think an Eliot Spitzer type would get a lot of mileage in the media from taking Wal-Mart to court over illegal business practices. Why isn't this happening?

    As far as "subsidizing" products or "killing off" competition -- this is what business does. Businesses make choices about what they will buy and at what price. They then try to sell that to others at a profit. They are not in business to be a charity, or to be kind to the competition. They are in business to maximize shareholder value.

    Now, if you think the rules of this system should be changed, your problem is much much bigger than Wal-Mart. Your problem is basically with the entire Anglo-Saxon system of corporate governance, which says investors have every right to pursue return on their investment within the bounds of the law.

    If Wal-Mart is indeed breaking the law, let them be prosecuted. I'd like more details on that, actually...

    And it would seem Wal-Mart is actually NOT doing a good job of maximizing shareholder value. Their stock is currently trading at $48 per share. It used to trade at $70 per share. That means $93 billion worth of shareholder value has been destroyed in that time ($22 * 4,233 million shares).

    Even today I read about how Wal-Mart is desperate to change their product mix, to attract higher end consumers because their lower end merchandise is not getting the job done profit-wise. It remains to be seen whether they can pull this off.

    Geez, I guess I better add some quick condemnations of Wal-Mart before I get accused of being a Wal-Mart sympathizer. Um...Wal-Mart bad! Booo!

    But actually, I think my GREATEST condemnation of Wal-Mart is the fact that they have not, despite billions in advertising and store construction, convinced me to spend a single dollar in their stores. The customer votes with his/her wallet!

  • (Show?)

    For some reason I feel like I'm living in the 1950s with this post.

    If Walmart is doing something wrong then they'd be prosecuted. (I'm paraphrasing).

    Yes, that day may come, but right now we live in the real world where our system ain't performing as it should, and hasn't for years. Bhopal is a good example - shouldn't Union Carbide have paid the people who suffered from that gas leak? Shouldn't the people at Cherynobl been recomensated for their trouble... Yes, Walmart will pay, too, perhaps it will be via Elliot Spitzer, we'll see. But for now, they can pretty much do whatever they like, take a slap on the hand fine and continue business as usual.

    • yes, I have problems with Walmart - and I'm happy to discuss them here.

    In terms of David's point on Walmart not stocking Emergency Contraception, what if they decided not to carry some other prescription medication? What if one day they decided, hmmm, perhaps cancer or AIDS (a very real example now that I think of it) medication doesn't make sense as a business decision (which is what they call not stocking EC). What then, maestro? What if they decide, hmmm what's wrong with pain? People should suffer a little bit, makes em more humble, perhaps we'll stop stocking painkillers. Hope you agree there's something wrong with this scenario.

    OK, time for lunch!

  • (Show?)

    assure me and your other customers

    You're sending mixed messages here, Lesowski. Either you write a letter as a customer or not. Who are you trying to deceive us or them (key to this test: the answer is them).

    Notorious J.E.S.

    Ixnay usingway Essejay ou'llyay owblay ymay aliasway

  • (Show?)

    Just trying to get the word out J.E.S. -Katy

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Ralph, didn't you get the memo? Select topics are not subject to critical consideration. Like, I dunno, gun control. Unions. Minimum wage. And, apparently, the evils of Wal-Mart. <nobr>  ;-)</nobr>

    Anyhow, I agree with you 100% on prosecuting ANY company when it breaks the law. And as I recall, Wal-Mart has been successfully prosecuted for certain labor law and immigration violations (undocumented worker cleaning crews locked in stores overnight, etc.). Just the other day I heard on NPR that there's a new issue regarding Wal-Mart allegedly spying on employees trying to organize, in violation of federal law.

    So granted, they obviously are not perfect citizens. They should be (and have been as far as I know) punished when they are caught breaking the law.

    Your final point, though, really resonated with me. I honestly could not care less that they are anti-union. I'm anti-union myself, hell, that's a reason for me to support them rather than avoid them! And I couldn't care less that they pay lower wages to their employees than local averages. That's between them and their employees and has nothing to do with me.

    But I also couldn't care less that they have low prices, either, because I'm not a "value shopper". I don't go out of my way to save a little bit of money, just to save a little bit of money. I'm more of a "quality shopper". I wouldn't go so far as to classify myself as a "high end consumer", but the general impression I get of Wal-Mart is the same as I've always had about "K-as-in-Kwality-Mart". Sure it's cheap -- in every sense of the word. That's why I don't shop there. And that's a powerful image they've got to overcome if they want to draw more affluent customers and be more profitable.

    Which means that they'll have to evolve over time to not have those low, low prices which contribute to their image of low, low quality. And when you factor out the price competitiveness of Wal-Mart, I suspect you'll find that they won't be able to drive local businesses out of the market as easily.

    So one of two things are likely to ultimately happen. Either Wal-Mart will continue to low-price itself into unprofitability, or they will raise prices to change their image and in the process become less competitive (i.e., leave the door open to local competition). Actually, there's a third (and probably the most likely, given typical corporate-think) option, which is to try some bastardization of the two approaches and fail miserably on all counts.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Come on, Albert...

    If Wal-Mart refuses to stock product X, then other stores, sensing a business opportunity, will stock it! If that does not occur, then demand and supply have not crossed at a mutually beneficial transaction. Both sides have to see something out of it for a transaction to take place!

    If there is an unmet demand for whatever reason, either through moral hazard or adverse selection, that is where government can (and should) step in to help the marketplace.

    "our system isn't performing as it should"

    Before I start on this, there's the very real problem of "should" here. Your "should" and my "should" are probably very different. There is no way to arrive at a collective "should" other than through the democratic process -- this is how disputes are resolved in this country. We elect people to enact policies based on a collective decision of "should."

    So, if Wal-Mart IS breaking the law (I'd like some evidence for that -- innocent until proven guilty?), and they are NOT being prosecuted, then it is because insufficient political pressure has been applied to political leaders (such as the Atty General) to prosecute them for crimes.

    I don't know Hardy Myers personally, but I can almost assure you that if Wal-Mart is breaking the law in the state of Oregon, he would like to know about it. Please call his office and tell him!

    And enjoy your lunch!

  • (Show?)

    There's not much in the way of criminal prosecution yet, but there's plenty of civil litigation going on.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Albert: "Hope you agree there's something wrong with this scenario."

    No, actually I don't agree.

    Oh, I think it would be a terrible business decision to be sure. It would be "wrong" in the sense that it would be a bad call on their part.

    But if they want to make dumb (but perfectly legal) business decisions like not stocking pain killers or cancer meds, why should they be stopped from doing so? The market will punish them for dumb decisions. To the extent that the market does not punish them, the decision may not have been so dumb in the first place.

    I guess I come back to this question -- do you think Wal-Mart is essentially a monopoly? That seems to be the main argument... that they are the only local provider in some cases, which thus as a practical matter limits consumer choice. If you can make that case, it seems to me you should be able to prosecute them for anti-trust violations.

    But even so, I still haven't heard your practical proposal for a remedy.

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    Mr. Makenna-

    If you truly believe, "We elect people to enact policies based on a collective decision of "should." you believe in fascism. The reason we have a judicial system is to protect the rights of those who feel they do not have to take your "should", or anyone else's. This is the essence of freedom and the reason our country was so wildly successful before the current Administration developed a new breed of Americans I contemptuously refer to as Zom-Bushes.

    Mr. Wright - Your reference, "If not enough people agree with us to make them change or put them out of business, we really don't have much room to complain, do we?" Frankly, I have an inalienable right to complain in my pursuit of happiness, and I make my own room for it, thank you very much. If we simply collapse every time a few people get together to speak against us, we've surrendered to fascists.

    In all honesty, you gentlemen scare me, but I will not deny my own voice because of your rantings that have basically amounted to: "Nothing can be done. Shut up and take it."

  • paul h (unverified)


    You certainly have a lot of faith in the "market will solve everything" panacea. Here's how I see it: there are some things, like sports cars or fancy cheese, that are not necessities and that can be free to operate in the free market. If you live in a rural area that doesn't support a Porsche dealership, that's that. On the other hand, there are things like roads or electricity that society has an interest in extending to all communities, so they are regulated by the government to ensure access.

    I would argue that access to basic health care -- prescription drugs -- is closer to the second category. The government has a compelling interest to ensure that if a pharmacy locates in a community, it doesn't exclude some narrow type of medication from its customers just as it doesn't exclude some racial minority. Of course the market could eventually pull Walmart to the right direction (although policies of a national complany could also overrule local market-based decisions), but here's the point: for the market to work, people suffer the consequences of a poor decision in the short term.

  • (Show?)

    FYI-this just in:

    Pharmacies May Be Forced to Dispense Birth Control

    27 minutes ago Health - Reuters

    By Julie Rovner

    WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - In response to a growing number of reports of women whose birth control prescriptions were denied by pharmacists on moral grounds, US Senators and House members Thursday introduced legislation to ensure that women are able to get such prescriptions filled. The "Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act" would not require individual pharmacists to dispense medications to which they have religious or moral objections. But it would require the pharmacies for which they work to ensure that the prescription is either filled without delay by another pharmacist or, if the drug is not in stock, that it be promptly ordered. Pharmacists would be barred from deterring an individual from ordering or filling a valid prescription, including refusing to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy or refusing to return the prescription to the patient. "This is a bill I am astonished in the 21st century is even needed," said Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, the House sponsor of the measure. Senate sponsor Democrat Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey said that the bill was prompted by women whose birth control prescriptions have been denied, but that the measure applies to all drugs. "If a pharmacist is allowed to pick and choose which prescriptions to fill, everyone's health could be at risk," he said. The federal bill would override legislation being considered in nearly a dozen states to give pharmacists wider discretion to refuse to dispense medications. Women's health groups say they have more than 200 reports of women being denied both regular birth control pills and "morning after" emergency contraceptive pills, on the grounds that both can cause an abortion by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. The state bills are being pushed by a group called Pharmacists for Life International, which says its mission is to "is to make pharmacy once again a life-saving profession, a mooring from which it has drifted." Sponsors of the federal bill, however, say that it is not a pharmacists' place to deter people from using certain medications. The decision to use birth control pills, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schwartz of Florida, "is between me and my doctor. Not between me and my doctor and my pharmacist's conscience."


  • Sally (unverified)

    "The 'Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act' would not require individual pharmacists to dispense medications to which they have religious or moral objections. But it would require the pharmacies for which they work to ensure that the prescription is either filled without delay by another pharmacist or, if the drug is not in stock, that it be promptly ordered.

    Not much variance from WalMart's letter to you, is it?

    "Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription."

  • Georgia (unverified)

    Just one point: EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION IS BIRTH CONTROL . . . just in a higher dosage. So the argument that Walmart doesn't carry EC is null and void. They carry it, they just won't fill a perscription for use in a way in which they object.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Wow, Greg, new levels of hyperbole.

    Is the judicial system not an indirect function of the people's will? Do legislators not appoint judges? Do judges not run for office in some cases?

    Yes, they work from a script -- the Constitutions of the various states and the Constitution of the United States. But even these are subject to amendment and revision, according to the people's will. Show me a Constitution where this is not the case.

    You scare me as well with the simplicity of your thought process. Good luck to you, sir.

    Katy -- I welcome the passage of this bill you mention. This is how the system should work.

  • (Show?)

    Sally-I think you're right, no difference from where I sit. Georgia-I know you're right! I doubt the general public does, however. -Katy

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Paul H. --

    Very well reasoned. As Katy posted after you, you probably did not see the bill which has already been introduced with lightning speed in the Congress. I am actually very happy about this piece of legislation...the reality of its passage, however, is another matter given the current state of party makeup in the Congress. But this is why we work to win elections, don't we?

    "people suffer the consequences of a poor decision in the short term."

    All too frequently, sir. All too frequently. I do not think Mr. Wright nor I are saying "shut up and take it" (in response to one other commenter) -- at least I am not saying that. I am just trying to find where the precise roadblocks are.

    The title of this post said "Wal-Mart pharmacists not doing their job" -- I take issue with that. Their job is to serve their employer, not the public interest. Now, the public interest can (and perhaps should) compel their employer to sell these medicaments. But are they breaking a law? Are they defying a judicial order? I cannot see any evidence of that.

    So, by all means, let us pass a law requiring them to do so. I have never written in the contrary to that. I am merely trying to find where Wal-Mart has violated the law.

    If that is "scary" to some, so be it.

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)


    Did I question your intelligence? Hate to burst your brain, but it IS as simple as all that.

    It is about respecting the rights of individuals regardless of how the majority may feel about it. This is the basis for the American Constitution, and while we can amend this, if it breeches those inalienable rights, we are no longer free. The Soviet Union had a consitution too. So what?

  • (Show?)

    Come on, Albert...

    If Wal-Mart refuses to stock product X, then other stores, sensing a business opportunity, will stock it! If that does not occur, then demand and supply have not crossed at a mutually beneficial transaction. Both sides have to see something out of it for a transaction to take place!

    If there is an unmet demand for whatever reason, either through moral hazard or adverse selection, that is where government can (and should) step in to help the marketplace.

    This sounds like an economics course I took freshman year - demand and supply not crossing... But this, like much of neoclassical economics assumes a perfect world. That when I need a wrench, someone will come along to sell me a wrench. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be how this issue is playing out - those in need of EC are not as powerful as those who'd like to keep them from it. So, there is both political pressure and right-wing companies (look up who they donate to during election time...)(yes, one more reason not to shop at Walmart - of the two times I've been in a Walmart, one was to ask a pharmacist if they carried Prevent (EC), the other was to humor my Dad who likes to take the stuff from under the bagel bin home with him in a cup and pour it on top of his bagels - he calls it schmutz, the German word for dirt, though it has a kinder take in Yiddish, but I digress.

    ...right wing companies who are effectively monopolies. And I'd love to see them prosecuted under anti-trust laws, and perhaps that's coming, but I'll need a good legal team to take on this company.

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Greg -

    Of course, we should respect the rights of individuals. But what about yelling "birth control" in a crowded theatre? Are we free to do so? I am not free to go 156 mph down I-205. Any disagreement?

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Greg: Sorry if it sounded like I was saying people didn't have a right to complain about whatever they wish to complain about. I can see how what I wrote could easily be taken that way.

    What I meant by "no room to complain" is more along the lines of, don't have a reasonable cause, or a compelling case, to complain about.

    Paul: I understand your point. I happen to disagree with you about the "fundamental human right" to access to health care (I know those aren't your exact words, but that is the "Blue" terminology, right?), but that's a huge discussion for another place and for the moment it's beside the point anyway.

    We do not now have a system of socialized medicine. We do not now treat private pharmacies the same way we treat quasi-private utilities.

    When and if we do switch to some sort of public, socialized delivery of prescription medications, then of course your points will be perfectly valid and correct. Until that time, it seems to me that your argument is really with the system and not a specific player in the system.

    And by the way, I don't believe that the "market will solve everything." Clearly it will not, especially in areas such as public infrastructure as you cited.

    But I do believe that a lot of "problems" that people think the market won't solve, aren't really "problems" in the first place.

    Katy: Well, that legislation would certainly clarify the legal obligations faced by pharmacists (and pharmacies), which was one of my original questions.

    But I'm not sure how this law would effectively be any different from Wal-Mart's existing stated policy, apart perhaps from the bit about requiring a pharmacy that did not stock any given drug to order said drug at the consumer's request. But that doesn't exactly help with emergency contraception, does it?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    "those in need of EC are not as powerful as those who'd like to keep them from it"

    What about the introduction of the legislation Katy mentioned? Does that not imply those who need EC at least have some voice in the Congress?

    Yes, passage is not a sure thing, but again -- this is why we work to win elections! To ensure a hospitable climate for our philosophy in legislative bodies.

  • paul h (unverified)

    David- Fair enough. I actually don't like talking about "fundamental human rights" for things like health care, because I don't think it gets us anywhere. Personally I think some kind of regulated marketplace model, rather than either socialized or totally free market, is the way to go for health care. The goal should be maximizing access and affordability. As for the details, never do my eyes glaze over as fast as when health care policy is discussed! The bill introduced, as described above, I think is a good start.

  • (Show?)

    If Walmart and globalization interest you, Friedman, author of "The World is Flat" is discussing his ideas on Fresh Air/OPB right now, 2:30pm

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    Ralph- Yes, there are limits to speeds, I agree. But that is not the topic here. We're talking personal health choices that would in no way impact a pharmacist or put that person at risk of bodily injury, like say a speedster on I-205. The pharmacist merely has a "programmed" belief that BC is evil and because it violates the tenets of their faith. The purchaser's beliefs are ignored, the doctor's beliefs are ignored and, if the prescription is in stock, doesn't it also impede the economy of Wal-Mart? If we were to indulge ourselves in the Conservative fantasy that the market makes all decision, the pharmacist is blocking commerce and that's an "evil" far worse then any moral issue.

    David- As Ralph noted, I'm using hyperbole, but the underlying message is for us to accept the situation. I agree we do not have the laws in place. I am glad to see the Democrats bringing it to the floor but I would bet that the Republicans will crush their efforts and leave it to the courts to decide. I would also prognosticate that when the judges do determine that the refusal to fill a prescription violates a civil right, the Republicans will then chastise the judges for being "activists" as though that was a bad thing. The judges are not following the will of the people, which equates to majority ruling against the rights of individuals, and therefore we are in a fascist state.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    I just saw Friedman on The Daily Show last night (actually a recording from last week, I believe) discussing his book. It sounded very interesting!

    Greg, I guess my point was not necessarily that you need to accept the situation, but to "do it yourself" if you think it needs fixing. Spreading the word is fine, complain all you want, and as I said if by doing so you can convince enough people to see things your way and have an impact on the market that pushes Wal-Mart to behave the way you want them to, then mission accomplished. But if (again, as I said) you are unable to impact the market such that you can bend Wal-Mart to your will, then yes, you do just have to accept it. That's life. Unless you have a problem with capitalism and market economies in the first place, in which case you've got far bigger problems than Wal-Mart to deal with.

    Also, regarding your comment to Ralph about the "evils" of a pharmacist blocking Wal-Mart commerce -- that "Conservative fantasy" would account for this in that Wal-Mart, if it is economically harmed by an individual employee, may fire that employee as its remedy. If Wal-Mart chooses to harm itself by its own company policy, then the pharmacist is not being "evil" by following that policy.

    And by the way, why is it that the "beliefs" of the patient and the doctor must be considered, but not the 3rd party in the transaction -- the vendor? By forcing the transaction to take place, aren't the vendor's beliefs being ignored too? Why should they be the only ones not entitled to any choice in the matter?

    Let me clarify here -- I personally have no problem at all with any legally prescribed medication. If I was a pharmacist, I'd fill valid prescriptions for EC or any other drug without imposing any personal moral beliefs on anyone.

    I'm just saying that the personal opinions of an individual, and the policies of a private enterprise, deserve just as much respect whether it's the doctor, patient, or pharmacist involved. If you as a patient don't like that your doctor won't prescribe a certain drug, you find another doctor who will. If you don't like that the pharmacist won't fill a certain prescription, you find another pharmacist who will. Individual freedom of choice, right?

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    "the underlying message is for us to accept the situation"

    That is your interpretation, not mine. All David and I are doing (I think, without wanting to speak for David) is trying to lay out why the current situation is the way it is -- by tracing legal and economic rules to their origins.

    Far from it, Greg -- DO NOT accept the situation! Call your congressperson, tell them to sponsor Maloney's bill. Call others, tell them to do the same! Work to elect candidates who will, if elected, vote for Maloney's bill!

    I think you have enough to do, now, Greg...if you need more to do, let me know. I got a bunch a stuff going on.

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright:"But if (again, as I said) you are unable to impact the market such that you can bend Wal-Mart to your will, then yes, you do just have to accept it. That's life....By forcing the transaction to take place, aren't the vendor's beliefs being ignored too? "

    So... you continue to pursue that aspect of neo-con philosophy that corporations should have rights that people do not. The vendor in this situation is a corporation. How can a corporation have beliefs?

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    David- There's the entire problem right there! If the vendor was any old vendor, who would care if one business decided that they would not carry an item. But this is Wal-Mart. And we are discussing pharmaceutical items, which should be considered in a manner of more importance then merely a commodity. I noticed that someone in this string refers to them as the #3 pharmacy in the nation. And we also have to consider that due to their "invasion" of the rural areas, numerous enterprises have gone out of business leaving only Wal-Mart as an option in proximity. I did see someone declare that if the people there did not like their options they could move, but I think one might consider that simplistic, especially since most peole are born in a rural area and people seldom move there, unless they hope to have some hobby farm.

    Is there cause for anti-trust legislation at this juncture? Depends where you live, I guess. What is truly disturbing is that we now have this "trend", if you will, of morality breaking into corporate America. Where big business has traditionally been amoral and catered to both sides of the aisle, to paint with the broadest of brushes and describe people in only red and blue, now we have big business taking a stand on issues that are far from their primary purpose, making money.

    Frankly, I believe we do need to Buy the Blue and remind corporate America that their profits depend on their remaining non-partisan. Or they can choose to continue in a business at 50% of production, should all Kerry voters abstain. In fact, since the businesses cannot vote, and should not vote, I am opposed to their financing campaigns anyway, although I believe they should be taxed. They operate with the consent of the people, and they should should be respectful of the people and their environment. But just so we don't now argue I am taking a fascist bent, the people of the business all vote, so they are represented and if their people don't vote in ways that support their employer, and the communith does not vote in ways that support the business, then perhaps that employer should consider other ways of doing business. In addition, this is not fascism, but more akin to market forces.

  • Sally (unverified)

    Since when did majority rule become synonymous with fascism? I thought it was synonymous with democracy. Noting that the US system of government is a constitutional republic designed to prevent that (while incorporating it in some fair measure).

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    Ralph- Have you dismissed me? Have you presumed that I have not been involved? How do you think I came to this sight? Just sort of googled my way in here? Do you really think I should come to you and ask for things to do?

    You're on the ropes with your position here in a Progessive website. You're begging David to come to your aid. And you think I should just go away?

    Ralph, take this to heart. I am discussing these things to shed some light an your argument. It's not personal. If you have some light to shed on my errors, I invite you to respond. I enjoy the challenge. I want to see things more clearly. I'm not hoping you'll go away, but you might consider another approach. I understand you are interested in knowing where these things come from by "tracing the legal and economic rules to their origin". This is useful stuff. But I am concerned more with where it is going and I assure you, I am involved.

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    Sally- If the rights of the individual are suppressed due to a majority rule, it is fascism. Our present system has a Consitution and checks and balances that are being dismantled by the Republican majority. If we waive off their incursions into personal freedoms with the explanation that they have the support of the majority, we can no longer refer to this as the "Land of the Free". When did this happen? It was not a moment, it was an erosion.

    Are we succumbing to fascism? Look around and ask yourself what it means when students in California put red stars on the doors of their professors who are too liberal...and later we learn they were Young Republicans, by their own admission?

    Ask yourself what it sounds like when a Senator gives any understanding to the violence against justices? even if there were few Senators on the floor, what does that sound like?

    It's a grim picute, but we have to ask ourselves who are we now, as a country? What does it mean when our President lies and people rally around him in his own private Town Meeting where people with unsavory bumper stikers or T-shirts are forcibly removed?

  • afs (unverified)

    Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Wal-Mart) We hear that Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum hasn't been spending much time of late in his adopted hometown of Penn Hills near Pittsburgh, the town that spent over $100,000 to educate the senator's five kids while they were living in a luxury home in Virginia.

    So Santorum probably doesn't even know that his neighbors are upset that a new Wal-Mart is coming to Penn Hills, so upset they held a meeting last night to complain about everything from traffic to the mom-and-pop stores that will likely be driven out of business.

    But even the folks back in Penn Hills could get close enough to Santorum to complain, he might not hear them. Especially over the din of Wal-Mart corporate jet -- the jet that recently chauffered the Republican around the Sunshine State while Santorum alternately mugged for the cameras on Terri Schiavo's death watch and raised some $250,000 in campaign cash from deep-pocketed Florida donors. Under federal election rules, Santorum only need reimburse the retail giant at the rate of commercial air fares to Florida and not for the real cost of the lavish chartered travel.

    When that story was broken earlier this week by our Daily News colleague John Baer, most of the outrage focused -- and rightfully so -- on the fact that Santorum had cancelled a public meeting on Social Security reform "out of respect" for the Schiavo family but didn't cancel his closed fundraising events.

    But lost in the uproar was the close relationship between Wal-Mart, Santorum, and the political agenda of the massive $256-billion-a-year retailer whose actions drive everything from American labor relations to the U.S. relationship with China.

    Attytood checked into it and quickly found out in addition to Santorum's sky perks program, the Arkansas retail chain has also become one of the senator's most generous campaign donors as well.

    According to campaign records. Wal-Mart's political action committee -- which has become a major backer of the GOP in the last few years -- gave $10,000 to Santorum's campaign in late November.

    Lobbyists who work for the firms hired in recent years by Wal-Mart to represent its sweeping political interests -- including Patton Boggs, Cassidy and Associates and Ernst & Young, have given at least $21,793 more, most of that to a Santorum controlled political action committee called America's Foundation.

    What does Wal-Mart get out of the relationship? Well, it's clear there's a huge overlap between what the retail monolith wants and what Santorum actually works for in Congress...when he's not busy assailing "judicial tyranny" or a "culture of death" for the TV cameras.

    For example:

    • Overtime and minimum wages: It's hard to imagine an issue of greater importance to Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest low-wage employer. The overtime issues may be the most critical, because in recent years, Wal-mart has faced dozens of lawsuits over not paying its workers for overtime.

    This winter, between the time that Wal-Mart PAC gave the $10,000 to Santorum's campaign and the jet trip to Florida, Santorum introduced an amendment for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's minimum wage and related overtime laws.

    Santorum's amendment, which failed, would have raised the minimum wage, but only to $6.25 an hour, or about a doillar less than Democrats are seeking. More important was the overtime provision. Under Santorum's proposed rule, an employee could work 50 hours one week and 30 hours the next, but not receive overtime for that additional ten hours. Democrats noted that millions of workers might lose overtime pay.

    • Tort reform: Santorum is a major supporter of new proposals to limit lawsuits, including one that would move most suits against large companies from state to federal courts. Guess what? Wal-mart and its ally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, support this as well. Maybe that's because Wal-Mart is facing the largest class-action suit in history, a gender-discrimination case involving 1.5 million female employees.

    As this article notes, Wal-Mart has given at least $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce, whose PAC gave $9,500 to help Santorum get re-elected in 2000. It also states:

    Wal-Mart, the retailer many experts consider the most-sued company in America, stands to benefit from the new class-action law, which is designed to cut down on lawsuits and big verdicts by steering some cases into federal courts, away from state courts with track records of siding with plaintiffs and awarding multimillion-dollar verdicts, according to policy experts.

    • Estate taxes and charitable giving: Most of Santorum's constituents are unaware that their senator is a main sponsor and advocate for the Charitable Giving, or CARE, Act. One of the proposal's obscure provisions would allow a foundation to receive a gift from an "interested" corporation in excess of $1 billion, if the foundation agrees to divest itself of the gift within 10 years and adopt a 12 percent all-grants payout rate while holding the stock.

    Who cares about that? Well, read this:

    NCRP opposes this provision, on the grounds that it breaks down the "Chinese Wall" between corporations and foundations; it results in legislative particularism, regulating certain foundations and not others; and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is pushing it, apparently at the urging of the Walton (Wal-Mart) family

    Of course, as the world's wealthiest family, the Waltons also are eager to see the estate tax repealed. And so is Rick Santorum.

    We don't know if anyone from Wal-Mart or their lobbyists was on the jet with Santorum on his money-raising tour of Florida -- if there had been, they sure would have had a lot to talk about. (We've been waiting for nearly 24 hours to get a callback from the Santorum campaign -- we'll give you an update if and when they do so). We also don't know if he was staying in his Penn Hills "house" while his neighbors were trying to keep Wal-Mart out, but we doubt he'd have much useful to say to them.

    Santorum may be Pennsylvania's junior senator, but when it comes to representing the interests of Wal-Mart, he's the top dog.


    That's right. You guys are defending WalMart's right to shuttle Rick Santorum in a private jet to Terry Schiavo's hospice.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Greg, you make a good point about the amoral business model being most conducive to making money. I agree with you 100%.

    And, for these public companies, the shareholders who own the company will ultimately regulate that aspect. For private companies, the direct owners will make that call. If partisan companies see major declines in profits, and can connect those declines to their partisan positions, then the shareholders/owners will act in their own self-interest to correct the situation. Unless they feel, as is their right, strongly enough about the position to pay the economic price involved. If the majority of shareholders want the company to take a principled stand to the detriment of their own share value, then the minority shareholders who disagree are free to divest themselves of ownership.

    As I've said, I personally think Wal-Mart should fill the prescriptions. But I also think it's not my place to make that call, I'm not a shareholder. And, by extension, it's not government's place to make that call either. We apparently just disagree on that.

    By the way, on the ancillary point (way off topic but very interesting anyhow) about companies making campaign contributions -- of course you're right, they can't vote directly, but as you also said they are taxed. And they are subject to the laws created by elected officials. So they as distinct entities most certainly do have an interest in the outcome of any given election. Why shouldn't they then be allowed to influence the election? Seems to me that the fact a company can't vote (and I agree that they shouldn't have a vote) is an argument in favor of allowing campaign financing by companies. While the local employees may get to vote, the local employees do not necessarily have concurrent interests with the company, and in fact may have competing interests. And simply owning a single share of Wal-Mart does not give me the right to vote in local elections anywhere Wal-Mart has a presence. So there is a very real case to be made that the bigger the company, the less well represented that company is likely to be in any given election, save for campaign contributions.

  • (Show?)

    Something tells me this is just the tip of the iceberg. Tom Delay's trips, Santorum's trips, the various connections between the R's and big biz. I'm getting a sense that the next three years aren't going to be as depressing as I'd thought.

    I noticed there was no notice on the blog today about Nike's decision yesterday to list all of its factories, their locations and contact info due to activists claims on sweatshop conditions. This sets the bar high and we'll see if Walmart follows suit.

    Good discussing things with everyone today - this was one of the more interesting blog articles (as you can see I be into the Sprawlmart issue).

  • Ralph Makenna (unverified)

    Greg - You said I was saying you should just "shut up and take it." I was not saying that. I recommended courses of action -- which is the exact opposite of shutting up and take it. Good for you for being inolved. I suggested some specific things to do related to this issue. That would seem to say I am not in favor of you just shutting up.

    How is my position on the ropes? My position is that Wal-Mart should not break the law. My position is that Wal-Mart also has the right to conduct business within the bounds of the law. My position is that legislation should be passed which supports the viability of EC availability as described by Katy, as well as the election of candidates who support same.

    Which of these are in contravention to the goals of this website?

    "You guys are defending WalMart's right to shuttle Rick Santorum in a private jet to Terry Schiavo's hospice."


    If this action is illegal, then no, I do not support Wal-Mart's right to do so. Has there been legislation introduced to prevent this practice? What are the details of this legislation? Was this not covered under McCain Feingold?

    For whatever it is worth, I also do not support the re-election of Santorum as Senator from Pa. Though I do not live in Pa., and thus am not sure how well received my opinions will be.

  • rebellingboxer (unverified)

    David Wright: "By the way, on the ancillary point (way off topic but very interesting anyhow) about companies making campaign contributions -- of course you're right, they can't vote directly, but as you also said they are taxed. And they are subject to the laws created by elected officials. So they as distinct entities most certainly do have an interest in the outcome of any given election. Why shouldn't they then be allowed to influence the election?"

    Then, by definition, you do not support the form, of government called democracy. You support the form of government know as corporatism.

    In democracy, only the citizens of a country have the right to determine govenment policy.

    In corporatism...

    "...Today, corporatism or neo-corporatism is used as a pejorative term in reference to tendencies in politics for legislators and administrations to be influenced or dominated by the interests of business enterprises (limited liability corporations). The influence by other types of corporations, such as those representing organized labor, is relatively minor. In this view, government decisions are seen as being influenced strongly by which sorts of policies will lead to greater profits for favored companies. In this sense of the word, corporatism is also termed corporatocracy. If there is substantial military-corporate collaboration it is often called militarism or the military-industrial complex.

    Corporatism is also used to describe a condition of corporate-dominated globalization. Points enumerated by users of the term in this sense include the prevalence of very large, multinational corporations that freely move operations around the world in response to corporate, rather than public, needs; the push by the corporate world to introduce legislation and treaties which would restrict the abilities of individual nations to restrict corporate activity; and similar measures to allow corporations to sue nations over "restrictive" policies, such as a nation's environmental regulations that would restrict corporate activities...."


    So... don't go lecturing anyone here about democracy anymore, David. You don't believe in democracy.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    For the record, I agree with Greg's comments about the reprehensible behavior of a certain (very vocal) segment of the majority Republican party vis a vis fascism. Shame on them, indeed.

    Being in the majority doesn't in and of itself make one "right". It just means you get your way. For the time being. What goes around comes around, and unfortunately that segment felt oppressed under previous periods of relatively liberal rule, and are now overcompensating. The pendulum will eventually swing the other way, and I'm not at all happy about the extra push the far right of my own party is giving it now... there will be a heavy price to pay down the road, I'm sure.

    I know I take some pretty drastically different views of things from most people on this site, and we sometimes get into pretty exciting debates. But I for one think that the open exchange of ideas, and standing up to defend your point of view honestly against rational dissent, is an important and healthy part of our democracy. Suppressing all expression of dissent is intellectually dishonest and unworthy of our democracy. BOO to the president and those around him who feel otherwise.

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright: "Suppressing all expression of dissent is intellectually dishonest and unworthy of our democracy."

    David, you don't believe in democracy. You believe in corporatism. Don't say "our democracy" anymore. You don't believe in it.

  • Greg Zaparyniuk (unverified)

    Ralph- So, I went back and reviewed your posts, to be fair. What I found was that my issue was not whether Wal-Mart was had the right to refuse to provide prescriptions, it was related to the comment that "We elect people to enact policies based on a collective decision of "should." Followed by dicussions on a myriad of topics. I enjoyed the interaction very much and now I must go. And I respect your defending the rights of private enterprise and the rule of law, i.e. we can't enforce laws that have not yet been made. Just the same, companies do change as a direct result of public pressure sometimes, and I think we should keep the pressure on them.

    David- Great interacting with you as well. I would like to point out one thing about democracy. It is one person, one vote, and if corporations were given a direct vote, it would be only one. If we revere money such that the corporations interests exceeded that ratio, we have corporatism. You indicated, "So there is a very real case to be made that the bigger the company, the less well represented that company is likely to be in any given election, save for campaign contributions." And that would be as it should be, even though they do not get that. More money does not equate to more votes. If it did, we could just ask Bill Gates and Paul Allen who should be governor in Washington. I don't begrudge anyone who earns money fairly, but I don;t give them more votes either.

    Good night, gentlemen, ...and Sally.

  • (Show?)

    There's not much in the way of criminal prosecution yet, but there's plenty of civil litigation going on.

    Thanks for pointing that out, Kari. My friends make fun of me because I will not step foot in, near, around and would rather not be with in sight of a Wal-Mart. I even told an old roommate that if he bought anything there that he'd be better off to destroy any evidence. lol. The sight of the blue bags with that ridiculous smiley face on them make me ill. They pick on me, make fun of me, think that I'm being a little ridiculous but it never seems to fail... never more than a few days after a discussion surrounding my disdain which results in me defending my position for the MILLIONTH time, I'll see something in the news that Wal-Mart has done something else to screw someone else on a grand scale and I get to say "I told you so!" But I'd really rather they stop screwing people and prove me wrong. Unfortunately, that's never going to happen.

    I noticed there was no notice on the blog today about Nike's decision yesterday to list all of its factories, their locations and contact info due to activists claims on sweatshop conditions.

    About friggin' time.

    As for the original topic - I'm just glad that in an age where pharmacists are flexing a political and religious muscle, there are many ways to get prescriptions for oral contraceptives filled. Though we've already established how I feel about Wal-Mart, as was mentioned somewhere in this gigantic thread, it's not just a Wal-Mart specific problem. The problem specific to Wal-Mart is that they're allowing this to happen. Though nothing that Wal-Mart does surprises me anymore.

    What about condoms? I would assume that Wal-Mart sells condoms. Does the pharmacist run out and smack the hand of an unmarried woman who reaches for a box of Trojans and send her away in shame? Where's the line?

    It isn't a pharmacist's roll to decide what medications are doled out or not. However I think we're a long, long way away from legislation to stop it. Definitely not going to happen during this administration.

    But those of you talking about small towns where Wal-mart is the only pharmacy reminded me of a story. I have a friend who grew up in Reedsport - when she was growing up there was one pharmacy in town and everybody knew everybody else. There's no way a young single woman such as herself would have dared to fill a prescription there because they didn't have HIPPA laws yet and it wouldn't be a secret. Though HIPPA laws are now in place, there's still the same stigma in the small towns - Wal-Mart or no Wal-Mart. Chances are, if you grew up there, the pharmacist knows you and your parents. Young women in rural areas aren't going to get their prescription for oral contraceptives or Plan B filled there anyway.

    Which brings me back to being grateful for the internet and all of the services it has to offer.

    You all will hafta forgive me if I've duplicated points... with all of these comments I was bound to miss something! lol.

  • Sally (unverified)

    Greg, I prefer the definition of fascism as an alliance of corporatism and state authoritarianism. Eg, we could come to see theocracies in the Middle East enacted by majority votes. This would not prima facie make them fascist states, or undemocratic states. It could just as well make them democratically enacted theocratically authoritarian states.

    Majority rule beyond the boundaries of constitutional protections for the individual do not automatically equate with fascism in my political dictionaries or reference points.

    Whatever about current directions in American politics and government may suggest to some "fascism," I don't think it can be fairly attributed to "majority rule."

    That is the distinction I wanted made. (Thanks for the comments.)

  • Randy2 (unverified)

    David said:

    "But I am saying that in most all cases the responsibility for the situation where an individual finds herself unable to get EC lies ultimately with that individual, not with Wal-Mart."

    So rape is apparently not a problem in Wal-Mart world? Isn't that the primary purpose of EC?

  • Sid (unverified)


    I was just about to make that same point. I was thinking of a woman who called into Talk of the Nation last Thursday, as they were discussing this very issue. She had been raped and nearly murdered. She was able to get a rape kit, which includes EC. She had been a member of the Catholic church up until that time, but realized how awful it would be to have to carry out a pregnancy that happened from her rape (the church opposes EC even in instances of rape.)

    She found it difficult to imagine what it would be like for a woman living in a rural area who may be denied access to EC due to the fact that the only pharmacy in the area would be Wal-Mart.

    I think Margaret Atwood's book "A Hand Maid's Tale" is in order here.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Greg: It seems I may have been misunderstood on my comments regarding corporate influence of elections. I don't think a company should get any votes at all in an election. But a company should certainly have the right to spend money to try to influence those people who do get votes, to vote their way. Just as a wealthy individual can spend money to influence voters, or a union can spend money to influence voters, or a political action committee (do they even still have such things or are they called something else now?), etc. In other words, I don't see why a company should be prevented from trying to influence an election like anyone else who might have a stake in the outcome. But give a company a direct vote? Never. We are, after all, still a representative democracy. The people and only the people get to vote. But the people may be influenced by any number of individuals or groups, and the primary mechanism for influence is money.

    Sally: I believe a defining characteristic of fascism is strict government control/regulation of industry, in addition to strict government control of political action. While the Bush administration may exhibit some fascist behaviors in terms of trying to suppress or control dissent, one thing they've amply demonstrated is a distinct lack of interest in strict government control of industry. And you're right, the simple application of majority rule, even without protections for the minority, doesn't directly equate with fascism.

    Personally, I think we need a new "-ism" to describe the peculiar combination of governing philosophies used under our current administration. Corporatism, or even Neo-Corporatism, doesn't quite cover it.

    To All: I spoke this evening with a friend of mine who is a licensed pharmacist here in Oregon to get his views on this whole debate. I'm trying to get him to post a comment here directly to more fully explain, but his basic comments were, legally pharmacists have reasonably broad leeway in Oregon in terms of discretion as to whether to fill prescriptions that they feel would be harmful to the patient or others. He knows some pharmacists who won't fill EC orders, or won't provide refills. His position is, if it's a legal prescription then that's the doctor's call and he'll honor it, but as a practical matter it's pretty tough to sanction any pharmacist for refusal to fill any prescription in this state. For what it's worth (hopefully he will post here and provide more details).

    Randy2: I wasn't explicit in my earlier post, but I said "With very limited exceptions, the 'need' for contraception, emergency or otherwise, is self-induced." This was just prior to the quote of mine that you pulled, and those "limited exceptions" I was talking about were basically the standard "exceptions" used in the abortion debate -- rape & incest. As to whether cases of rape are the primary use of EC, I'd have to say that's highly doubtful, but (again relying on the comments of my pharmacist friend) in those cases the woman has most likely gone to a medical care facility for treatment, and would usually obtain EC from that facility on the spot. I'm curious to know from Sid whether the guest on TOTN had obtained her rape kit from a pharmacy, or from a medical facility.

    Anyhow, if you'll read my remarks carefully I of course left open the possibility (e.g., "most all cases" rather than just "all cases") that there are certain circumstances under which EC would be necessary or desirable that were not the direct responsibility of the woman. However, I still expect that this is by far the exception rather than the rule. I have no data to back up this assertion, however. Have you any data to back up the assertion that the primary use of EC is in cases of rape?

    In any event, unfortunately in life very bad things do happen to people sometimes. I have nothing but sympathy for anybody (male or female) who has been sexually assaulted. I have known people who have gone through this. It's sad, and terrible, when it happens.

    But still, I contend, not Wal-Mart's (or any other pharmacy's) direct responsibility to address.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    I found an interesting link from NOW on a bunch of lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart. Most of them sound like civil suits. Some of them involve fines however, so while perhaps not strictly speaking criminal in nature these were certainly regulatory actions against the company.

    The information is a bit dated (looks like it's from 2001), but anyhow doesn't exactly showcase the company as a model citizen.

    Now, as a point of balance it should also be noted that Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States. So it should come as no surprise that such a large company would find itself involved in an awful lot of employment-related litigation.

    Anyhow, Wal-Mart is a pretty crappy place to work, obviously. So for those who wish to bash the company, knock yourselves out... <nobr>  ;-)</nobr>

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright: Looking at the blog this morning, a most interesting post showed up that's relevant to this discussion....

    "...It is commonly said in Central and Eastern Oregon that 'the passes run one-way'. This means that there is an expectation that when statewide groups or associations meet, the meeting will be held in the Willamette Valley. It is variously amusing, tiring, and frustrating to hear that 'the passes run one-way'. It is very insensitive to hear in the winter, 'we can't drive over those passes full of snow' when Central and Eastern Oregonians are expected to do exactly that. Often when confronted on this, the comment back is 'well, you are used to the snow and ice'.

    Ironically, because Central and Eastern Oregon do get more snow and ice, and we are generally better prepared to drive on snow and ice - we don't get recognition for this. In every legislative session for as far back as this author can remember, there has been legislation proposed to reduce or eliminate the use of studded tires. In the winter in 'snow country' studded tires are a safety device much like a seat belt. Staying on the road is after all a safety issue. We get snow well into April, and sometimes May. But, the statewide law requires studded tires be removed at the end of March. (ODOT can extend the date due to weather.)..."


    "...In 2003, there were 198,850 victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault...."

    "...Only about 40% of rapes sexual assaults were reported to law enforcement in 2003...."

    "...Of these approximately 199,000 victims, about 81,000 were victims of completed rape, 61,060 were victims of attempted rape, and 80,910 were victims of sexual assault. [2003 NCVS]..."

    "...One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). [Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998.]..."

    "...A total of 17.7 million women have been victims of these crimes. [Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1998.]..."


    David... looks likes you are pretty clueless when it come to understanding how widespread the crime of sexual assault, and also, like most things here, you're not willing to google up a few statistics to find out if your views are correct before you make your pronouncements.

    See that column about 'One-way passes" and trying to drive an central and eastern Oregon during March, April and May? Imagine a recently victimized woman, or the mother of a recently victimized teen in central/eastern Oregon at that time of year trying to get her life together after an assault (for example, maybe a date-rape at a ski lodge) Prescription in hand, she manages to slide all over the road all the way down the mountain to get into a pharmacy and... sorry... they won't fill that prescription. What does she do now? Drive back over a one way pass to check a pharmacy on the other side of the mountain?

    David Wright: "However, I still expect that this is by far the exception rather than the rule."

    One final statistic from the rainn.org page...

    "Up to 4,065 pregnancies may have resulted from these attacks. [RAINN calculation based on 2003 NCVS and medical reports."

    Want to know why this particular guy cares about this issue so much? Because the first two girls I dated way, way back in junior high school had already been victims of sexual assault before I had met them. One had been victimized by a friend of her father, the other had been victimized by an older step-brother.

  • David Wright (unverified)


    Just a follow-up on the question of whether the "primary use" of EC is for cases of rape. After extensive searching, I've found it extremely difficult to locate complete, relevant and useful data for analysis, in particular for getting comprehensive information on exactly how many EC prescriptions are written/filled each year nationwide (a critical component in answering the question with any certainty). However, some general observations based on partial numbers that I found would seem to support my assertion that EC is used less often for cases of rape than for other situations, though the incidence may not be as low as I had implied (it's just very difficult to determine from the information at hand). My sincere apologies to anyone who might be offended by the discussion of this sensitive topic. This is a very serious question that deserves a very serious response.

    Here's what I've pieced together:

    • According to RAINN.ORG (which was also referenced elsewhere in this thread) there were 142,380 reported cases of Rape or Attempted Rape in 2003. This same site explains that 10% of victims are male (thus obviously do not require EC) and claims that only 40% of actual victims report the crime (though this figure is unsubstantiated).
    • Using the RAINN numbers to adjust for unreported cases and filtering out male victims, that implies roughly 320K total female victims in 2003. This number would be an upper limit to EC candidates, as obviously not all cases of attempted rape (around 40% of the total) would result in the need for EC use.
    • Planned Parenthood, which claims to be "a leading provider of Emergency Contraception in the U.S.", provided EC to 634,000 women in 2002 (this was the only solid number I could find that remotely indicated the scale of national usage of EC). As EC has become more accepted in the U.S., the number of women using EC has skyrocketed over the past several years (Planned Parenthood provided EC to only 17,000 women in 1995; the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the number of women 18-44 who had ever used EC went from 2% in 2000 to 6% in 2003) so we may quite safely assume that, without having the actual numbers from 2003 available, it would have certainly been no less than the 634K number.
    • This means that, in 2003, a single provider of Emergency Contraception provided EC to about twice as many women as were total estimated victims of rape or attempted rape in that year. Thus, since they are not by any means the only provider of EC in the country, and not all victims of attempted rape would have a need for EC, and not all victims of completed or attempted rape actually use EC as a result, we may reasonably infer that substantially less than 50% of EC use is connected to rape victims (though it's difficult to determine exactly how much less).

    Setting aside for the moment the question of how many prescriptions have actually been prescribed historically, numerous pro-EC web sites (including the Planned Parenthood site listed above) tout the potential of EC to prevent a substantial (upwards of 800,000) number of abortions every year. Not every use of Emergency Contraception is to prevent a known incipient pregnancy, so the potential is obviously for a great deal more than 800,000 uses of EC every year, if EC use would prevent 800,000 actual pregnancies. So looking to the future, we can expect that with widespread acceptance and increasing use of Emergency Contraception, the proportion of EC use related to rape cases would consistently decrease over time.

    The point of all this is NOT to in any way diminish the trauma experienced by rape victims, nor to downplay the seriousness of that problem.

    It is simply to put in perspective the relative proportion of voluntary versus involuntary need for Emergency Contraception specifically, a question that was raised earlier in the thread. The exact numbers are not readily available (though I would encourage anyone who might be able to find data on the annual number of EC prescriptions to post it here) but the general statement that there are more voluntary uses of EC than involuntary uses seems to be very well substantiated.

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright: "The point of all this is NOT to in any way diminish the trauma experienced by rape victims, nor to downplay the seriousness of that problem."

    If you didn't not intend to diminish and downplay sexual assaults against women, why did you just write 1000 words attempting to diminsh and downplay the sexual assault statistics to try to defend WalMart policy of forcing sexual assault victims to seek EC elsewhere. I don't care how many potential future uses of EC there are above the hundreds of thousand of incidents of sexual assualt. WalMart is still responsible for playing politics with hundreds of thousands of victimized women in the depths of their trauma.... AND YOU ARE DEFENDING IT, DAVID.

    You've sunk pretty low in some of your posts, David. Now you've proven you are a soulless monster. You have no excuse. The numbers were right there in front of you. You read them. You comprehended them. You still chose to defend WalMart. You really will do or say anything to win and argument or make a buck, David. Literally anything.

  • (Show?)

    Why is it even relevant? Who's business is it why a women needs emergency contraception but her own? It's legal, isn't it? -Katy

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Katy, you're absolutely right. The reason why a person wishes to buy a product from a private store is really none of the store's business.

    Likewise, the reason a private store does not wish to sell a product is none of the consumer's business.

    It really should be that simple. Thanks for the clarity.

  • Sally (unverified)

    "Likewise, the reason a private store does not wish to sell a product is none of the consumer's business."

    Nice try but no cigar. Not unless & until pharmaceuticals are deregulated and available to private consumers from private stores, the only object the ability to pay for it, not the obstructions of state regulated medical and pharmaceutical channels.

  • (Show?)

    Likewise, the reason a private store does not wish to sell a product is none of the consumer's business.

    Somehow I don't see a pharmacy as a private store. For instance, take Costco which also has a pharmacy - you don't have to be a member to use that section of the store - it's open to the public. A pharmacy is a special place in my mind - one where you take this prescription you've received from your doctor and you get it filled - quickly, efficiently and confidentially. It's not a regular part of business, at least it hasn't been in my lifetime and life experience. I can't think of something comparable.

    I think others feel the same way about pharmacies and how they should operate and I expect that the legislation above will pass.

    Sign of a change in my life - I checked this thread this AM before I checked my personal e-mail. A first.

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright:"Katy, you're absolutely right. The reason why a person wishes to buy a product from a private store is really none of the store's business.

    Likewise, the reason a private store does not wish to sell a product is none of the consumer's business.

    It really should be that simple. Thanks for the clarity."

    The one thing point that has more clarity than any other on this thread is that David Wright doesn't care how many sexually assualted women he watches get run over on the way to making a buck or trying to win an argument on a blog.


    WalMart is not "a private store." WalMart has a higher GNP than Austria. If WalMart is going to act as a political entity, then the real political entities need to take a chainsaw to WalMart. It's time to cut WalMart into about 15 pieces through anti-trust action. Cut off all the international operations into a few seperate pieces. Cut the distribution warehouses into about 3 companies. Cut the big boxes into about 5-7 different different retail chains that are not geographically contiguous so that WalMart is forced to compete again. No entity can be allowed this much power with no democratic representation within the borders of this country ever again.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Sally & Albert: So government regulation over the sale of a class of items obligates any provider to supply you with any possible individual member of that class?

    I.e., the sale of prescription drugs is regulated by the government, so a pharmacy must provide any prescription drug to any customer. Seems to be your argument, anyway.

    But I think it's based on your perception of drugs as being a special case of private commerce (as in "A pharmacy is a special place in my mind" or the implication that drugs are somehow not "available to private consumers from private stores" which they demonstrably are).

    Let's take a look at simply claiming government regulation as cover for requiring a vendor to provide any service demanded by the consumer, shall we?

    The sale of firearms is highly regulated in this country, for example. Using your logic, I could walk into any gun shop in the country and demand that they sell me any legal firearm, whether they stocked that firearm or not. After all, it's a government-regulated transaction, so the gun shop owner has a moral (and should have a legal) obligation to sell me anything I want, right?

    Ridiculous example? Yep, you bet. It would be INSANE to try to argue in favor of that idea. But it's basically the same concept that you're pushing.

    Oh, its all about prescription drugs, though, and that's special.

    I don't buy it, not for a second.

    Once you set up government run drug dispensaries, then you'll be able to force those dispensaries to carry every legal medication known to mankind. That's honestly the only way I can see to reasonably provide the kind of universal access to drugs that you apparently desire.

    But as long as pharmacies are still run by private businesses (and they are privately run businesses, regardless of how much "public access" they provide as in the case of Costco) then those private businesses should be free to stock or sell whatever meds they choose, within the boundaries of the law.

    And may I say once more, the proposed legislation will not solve the problem of not being able to get EC at Wal-Mart or any other location (the original point of the thread). If you have to wait for them to order a product they do not stock, it'll be too late for it to do you any good.

  • Sally (unverified)

    Brevity is the soul of wit, David. Actually, I do believe a "special case" can be argued for pharmaceutical drugs. You work too hard at this. And I can't but wonder if a real libertarian might bother to make, instead, a case for deregulation of pharmaceuticals and the tight supply chokehold on the physician market while they're at it.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Brevity is the soul of wit, David.

    Touché. <nobr>  ;-)</nobr>

    I can't but wonder if a real libertarian...

    You're probably right. But I'm not a real libertarian, though I certainly espouse some libertarian ideals. As I discovered today, I'm more of a South Park Republican, actually.

    And just curious, what's wrong with a little "hard work" in carefully examining important issues of public policy? Bumper stickers may be both witty and brief, but I certainly wouldn't want to be governed by them...

  • afs (unverified)

    David Wright:"...As I discovered today, I'm more of a South Park Republican, actually.

    And just curious, what's wrong with a little "hard work" in carefully examining important issues of public policy?..."

    Because us Democrats know that any time a Republican starts talking about "a little hard work", we know the Republicans means they plan on sitting on their ass in a lawn chair with a bullwhip and a mint julep as the Democrats do all the actual hard work.

  • Sally (unverified)

    David, why does a South Park Republican want to climb in with the moralists and the religious right? Sure your ideology isn't getting ahead of your own interests here? I've become convinced in the debates on abortion, Schiavo, and now this, that there is an agenda to control women that keeps getting rawer and more fundamental. Much as I hate to sound like I am spouting dogma, heaven forfend femininist or leftist, the Gospel of Paul seems to loom right over that next cliff.

    I'm sorry to see so much made of all this. I wish pharmacies would just go back to dispensing medicines that physicians prescribe. If a pharmacist in the back doesn't want to do that, I'd just as soon not even need to know.

  • Sid (unverified)


    If my memory serves me right, the caller on TOTN last week was from Missouri and a friend picked up her EC at a pharmacy for her. She was too shaken to do it herself. I'm certain she said her friend picked it up at the pharmacy. My memory is foggy on where she was calling from.

  • David Wright (unverified)

    Sid, thanks for the update.

    Sally, I don't generally want to climb in with the moralists and the religious right. But I don't have to agree with them on everything to concede that they happen to have a point in this case about freedom of religious convictions.

    You look at a pharmacist who would deny EC as somebody imposing their version of morality on the consumer. And you have a point.

    But by the exact same token, a consumer who has the right to force the pharmacist to supply EC against his or her will, would be imposing a version of morality on the pharmacist as well.

    Now, under the current situation where the pharmacist can refuse the drug, the consumer has the option of finding another supplier. It may be terribly inconvenient in some cases to do so, but there's nothing anywhere in the Constitution about a "Right to Convenience". So nobody is having any particular flavor of morality truly forced upon them in that scenario, because the consumer has a choice.

    But if the pharmacist is legally forced to comply, then somebody truly is having a version of morality forced upon them, because the pharmacist has no choice in the matter.

    Granted that the legislation under consideration wouldn't force a specific pharmacist to fill a prescription, but it would force a specific pharmacy to do so. And the protection of religious freedom that would apply to the individual pharmacist, would also apply by extension to the individual owner(s) of the pharmacy as well.

    Now I don't happen to be a religious person at all. I'm personally more interested in freedom from religion than freedom of religion.

    But as I see it, I do have a vested interest in protecting the full range of First Amendment rights. Even when (especially when) that means that people with whom I do not agree are protected, because I want all of those freedoms available to me if and when I need them.

    The Schiavo case was far more complex than just being about raw control over women. But at its heart, it was about two parties fighting over who would get to control the fate of one specific woman. Would Congress have acted as it did had Terri Schiavo been a man? I don't know, my gut feeling is probably not. But I think that's more likely because we as a society think that a female "victim" is more sympathetic than a male "victim", and are more likely to take action to "protect" a woman than a man. That's the result of thousands of years of conditioning more than anything else. (For the record, I opposed the Congressional actions in the Schiavo case. The courts consistently applied the law in exactly the right way, to uphold spousal rights.)

    There may be an element of the far right that wants to control women. But consider this -- roughly one third of the women in Congress are Republicans (21 in the House, 5 in the Senate). Proportional representation? No, not at all, but those are record levels. The trend is for more Republican women in elective office, so I don't think that would fit in with a master Republican plan to dominate women.

    Sorry, this wasn't a very witty post. <nobr>  ;-)</nobr>

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