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Walgreens Pharmacist Refuses To Give Woman Prescription To End Pregnancy

Peoria, Ariz. (CBS News/CBS Local) -- An Arizona woman is putting a public spotlight on a Walgreen's pharmacist who she said wouldn't give her a prescription to end her pregnancy. Nicole Arteaga said her doctor prescribed the medication after determining the fetus was not viable and she would have a miscarriage.

Arteaga said the pharmacist told her he couldn't do it for ethical reasons.

"I explained to him, I said, 'The doctor prescribed it because I – the fetus is not developing and there's no – you know there's no heartbeat, there is nothing… left for me to do besides a operation at the hospital or take this medication. And I chose to take this medication.' And he still said no," Arteaga said. She got the prescription a day later at a different Walgreens.

Arizona is one of six states where "the pharmacist is 100 percent within his legal rights to refuse to fulfill the prescription and give the medication," according to CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.

"I think her personal facts, which are highly sympathetic, was that she wanted to make him understand she was not there for some frivolous reason," Klieman said Monday on "CBS This Morning." "She was there because she was traumatized. She wanted to have a child. She was trying to create some kind of bond or understanding with him. But it didn't matter. He has the perfect right in Arizona to simply refuse."

Under Arizona law, the pharmacist does not have refer the customer to another pharmacy, Klieman said, but Walgreens required it as part of the company policy.

Walgreens said in a statement: "Our policy allows pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription for which they have a moral objection. At the same time, they are also required to refer the prescription to another pharmacist or manager on duty to meet the patient's needs in a timely manner. We are looking into the matter to ensure that our patients' needs are handled properly."

According to the National Women's Law Center, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota have laws or regulations that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for religious or moral reasons. In Alabama, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas, pharmacists are allowed to refuse but may not obstruct access to the medication. Eight states -- California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Washington and Wisconsin -- have laws requiring pharmacists to provide medication to patients.

In 29 other states, there are no laws addressing the issue.

"You might have a cause of action there – and you might not because it may be actionable and it might not," Klieman said. "What we forget about, back to Roe v. Wade back in 1973, a woman has a right to choose how she controls her body and her reproductive health care, but what becomes abundantly clear is if you have a private company, this is not governmental action, and a private company does not have the same rules as the government, and the private company can set its own rules if it wants."

Klieman pointed to 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Washington state's law requiring pharmacists to provide emergency contraceptives to women.

"If there is no law in your jurisdiction, women's groups are saying we want a law that mandates that you must give. At the same time, very dangerous because before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 when they refused to take a case, it wasn't about the woman's right to choose. It was about protecting religious liberty," Klieman said.

(H/T CBS News)

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