Pharmacies Must Fill Rx for Drugs That May End Pregnancy, Biden Administration Says

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HHS Department Office for Civil Rights sent guidance to more than 60,000 U.S. pharmacies

HealthDay News — Pharmacies must fill prescriptions for medications that could potentially end a pregnancy, the Biden administration said Wednesday.

The US Health and Human Services Department Office for Civil Rights sent guidance to more than 60,000 US pharmacies, reminding them that pregnancy discrimination is illegal because it is considered a form of sex discrimination under federal civil rights law. The law applies to all pharmacies that receive Medicaid and Medicare payments and any other federal financial assistance.

Wednesday’s reminder comes after reports of women being turned away for medications that could end a pregnancy, whether they were taking them for that purpose or for other health issues. “We are committed to ensuring that everyone can access health care, free of discrimination,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release. “This includes access to prescription medications for reproductive health and other types of care.”

Examples of situations in which a pharmacy could be found to have discriminated against a patient include not filling a prescription for emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy in someone who was sexually assaulted or selling condoms while refusing to fill emergency contraception prescriptions, the guidance said. Not filling a prescription for hemoglobin to reduce the risk for bleeding in someone with a bleeding disorder who is scheduled for a surgical abortion could also be considered discrimination.

Refusing to stock or fill prescriptions for the drug methotrexate would be another violation. Though the medication is used to reduce pain and swelling in patients who have medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, it also can potentially terminate a pregnancy, the guidance stated.

Wednesday’s guidance did not specifically address the issue of medication abortions. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said states cannot ban the drug mifepristone.

On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice announced that it will create a task force to identify the ways it can protect reproductive rights. Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against based on a current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth can call or file a complaint with the HHS.

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