Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

K-Mart Pharmacist Fired for Refusing to Dispense Embryocide

Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. (1996)

Reproduced with permission.

Karen L. Brauer M.S. R.Ph*

I was fired from my position as a pharmacist with the KMart Corporation for refusal to dispense Micronor, a progestin-only "minipill", for the purpose of birth control.

[Full text] . . . My name is Karen L. Brauer. My "alphabet soup" is M.S. R.Ph., and I am a practicing community pharmacist. Prior to this (my favorite) career, I had enjoyed a brief time in the field of medical research. On December 19, 1996, I was fired from my position as a pharmacist with the KMart Corporation for refusal to dispense Micronor, a progestin-only "minipill", for the purpose of birth control.

My opinion of this form of birth control was formed 20 years ago, because that is when I became aware of its most prominent mechanism to prevent implantation (as distinguished from a primarily contraceptive mechanism). My instructors in dispensing lab at pharmacy school were made aware of my opinion of this type of birth control, as was the District Manager who hired me to work for KMart. For the seven years that I worked for KMart, I turned away prescriptions for progestin only birth control, more often than not, talking the women out of filling the prescription at all. The Greater Cincinnati Area is a very conservative part of the country, and "minipills" were never very hot sellers here.

Many of the women were pleased that I would care enough to explain the forms of birth control to them, whether they agreed with my prolife position or not. Over time, I discovered that most women who had had experience with progestin only birth control had not been aware of its mechanisms of action.

My "troubles" with KMart began with a downsizing effort that caused the closure of at least four pharmacies in the Cincinnati area and a reduction in hours of service at most of the remaining stores. Instead of managing the new pharmacy that I had opened, I found myself working 20 hours a week at each of two stores. The new manager at the second store had Micronor in his stock. So I let him know that I did not dispense them, and asked him to get his patient to come in on the days that he would be there. He seemed to agree to this.

But on a day that I covered for him, I met up with his patient, who requested a refill. Rather than doing as usual and telling her why I don't dispense those pills, (which could possibly have made the manager look bad if he had not counselled her), I told her we were out of stock. In Ohio, a refillable prescription belongs to the patient and must legally be transferred at the patient's will. I asked her which pharmacy she would like to have the prescription transferred to, and fulfilled her request. Somehow this patient found out that we really did have Micronor in stock and complained to KMart headquarters.

The District Manager, (not the same one who hired me) received orders from headquarters to reprimand me, and that if I would not comply to their demands to dispense Micronor and "any legal prescription" and to not "send customers to the competition", to fire me. Since I would not give into these demands, the District Manager was forced to process my dismissal. It should be noted that this DM expended considerable effort in trying to preserve my job.

Since I am not the only pharmacist who has run into this sort of trouble with KMart, it could be concluded that such reprimands and firings are an expression of corporate policy. . .[Full text]