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Wal-Mart required to sell abortion-causing pills in Mass.

WASHINGTON (BP)–Wal-Mart will sell Plan B, an emergency contraceptive with abortion-causing properties, in its Massachusetts pharmacies after a state board voted to require the retail giant to stock the controversial drug.

Wal-Mart is reconsidering its nationwide policy not to dispense Plan B, also known as a “morning-after” pill. Until now, the world’s largest retailer has stocked the drug only at its pharmacies in Illinois, where Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered its sale in all pharmacies last year.

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

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman confirmed the chain would stock Plan B in its Massachusetts stores and indicated its policy in other states was under review.

“Clearly women’s health is a priority for Wal-Mart. So there are broader considerations, and we are giving the issue a lot of thought,” Fogleman told Baptist Press.

If Wal-Mart were to change its policy on the “morning-after” pill, it could dramatically reduce options for some pro-life Americans who refuse to shop at pharmacies where Plan B or Preven are sold. With more than 3,000 pharmacies in the United States, Wal-Mart is one of the country’s largest retail providers of pharmaceutical drugs. In some communities, it operates pharmacies where there are few alternatives.

Karen Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life International, said Wal-Mart and its customers need to take a stand.

“This is one of those things where it would be really good for the consumers that frequent Wal-Mart to give their opinion on this,” Brauer told BP. “I think that people are going to have to stand up and say they don’t want this.

“I really think Wal-Mart is big enough” to fight this, she said. “These companies that are giving in to the government, it’s not going to enhance their business base.”

There are good business and clinical reasons for not dispensing “morning-after” pills, Brauer said. There is “too much chance for the product to fall into the hands of people who abuse women,” she said, adding selling such drugs is “another way to undermine parental ability to rear children.”

“People should not be going to their discount store for their abortions,” she said.

If the trend of requiring the sale of abortion-causing drugs continues, pharmacies will lose as well, said Brauer, a pharmacist at a hospital in Lawrenceburg, Ind. Pharmacists who are willing to dispense the drugs “are not the best ones,” she said. “Those who refuse to kill any humans really are the ones who are the safest.”

Brauer has faced the same situation now confronted by some pro-life pharmacists. Kmart fired her in 1996 when she refused to fill prescriptions for drugs with abortifacient qualities. Pharmacists for Life International has between 1,500 and 1,600 members, she said.

Wal-Mart announced its policy change in Massachusetts, where it has 44 stores and four Sam’s Clubs, after the state’s Board of Registration in Pharmacy voted unanimously Feb. 14 to require the chain to stock Plan B, according to the Boston Globe. The board issued its ruling after three women sued Wal-Mart Feb. 1 for not stocking the “morning-after” pill.

The board agreed with the lawsuit’s contention Wal-Mart had violated a state regulation requiring pharmacies to provide “commonly prescribed” medicines, the Globe reported. Wal-Mart does not consider the emergency contraceptive a “commonly prescribed” drug, a store lawyer had said in a letter to a lawyer for the women filing suit, according to the Associated Press.

A state pro-life leader, however, said Wal-Mart should have had the freedom to refrain from selling the “morning’after” pill.

“This thing is as wide open as a bowling alley,” Massachusetts Citizens for Life Executive Director Marie Sturgis told the Globe, adding women “can go right down the street and get the drug. They’re not cornered or victimized in any way.”

All of the other major pharmacy chains in Massachusetts carry Plan B, according to the Globe.

Meanwhile, Melissa Kogut, executive director of NARAL Pro-choice Massachusetts, told the Globe, “What’s happening here in Massachusetts is really a turning point.”

The Massachusetts affiliates of NARAL and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, two leading abortion rights organizations, supported the women who sued Wal-Mart, AP reported.

In Illinois, four Walgreen pharmacists have filed suit against the drug store chain for being placed on unpaid leave in November after they refused to dispense “morning-after” pills because to do so would violate their consciences. Complaints have been filed against other Illinois pharmacists for similar actions.

In Missouri, Target fired a pharmacist at a St. Charles store for refusing to fill prescriptions for “morning-after” pills.

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