Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Targeting Women's Choices

A battle has erupted between Target stores and Planned Parenthood over the retailer's decision not to dispense emergency contraception pills ("Plan B") if such birth control is contrary to the store pharmacist's religion. Planned Parenthood has up a special website dedicated to generating e-mails to Target and other retailers who are allowing pharmacists to pull rank via their religion. For the record, you can write your opinions on this matter to Target.Response@target.com.

Here are some intercepted e-mails that have flown back and forth, starting with Target's boilerplate form letter sent to everyone who complains:


Dear Target Guest ["Guest"?]

In our ongoing effort to provide great service to our guests, Target consistently ensures that prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B are filled. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also requires us to accommodate our team members' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In the rare event that a pharmacist's beliefs conflict with filling a guest's prescription for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, our policy requires our pharmacists to take responsibility for ensuring that the guest's prescription is filled in a timely and respectful manner, either by another Target pharmacist or a different pharmacy.

The emergency contraceptive Plan B is the only medication for which this policy applies. Under no circumstances can the pharmacist prevent the prescription from being filled, make discourteous or judgmental remarks, or discuss his or her religious beliefs with the guest.

Target abides by all state and local laws and, in the event that other laws conflict with our policy, we follow the law.

We're surprised and disappointed by Planned Parenthood's negative campaign. We've been talking with Planned Parenthood to clarify our policy and reinforce our commitment to ensuring that our guests' prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B are filled. Our policy is similar to that of many other retailers and follows the recommendations of the American Pharmacists Association. That's why it's unclear why Target is being singled out.

We're committed to meeting the needs of our female guests and will continue to deliver upon that commitment.

Jennifer Hanson
Target Executive Offices


Ms. Hanson's form-letter elicited this response from a Raleigh resident:


Ms. Hanson,

There are several contradictions contained in your response to my email, though I do appreciate your courtesy in responding.

The most glaring of these contradictions is contained in your last sentence, when you indicate that you are committed to meeting the needs of your female "guests"; this is obviously false, since a significant number of women at some time in their lives find themselves in the dire circumstances of having a condom break, or of being raped, or of being lost in the moment and not using adequate protection during intercourse. Your policy seeks to minimize their access to a safe, legal method of preventing an unwanted pregnancy. It is, quite simply, unconscionable, and Target should be ashamed to have such a policy.

Why make things so complicated? It is very simple. I have a prescription. Your pharmacist fills the prescription. It is none of the pharmacist's business why I am filling the prescription. They are not in a position to judge my actions. And why is it that Plan B is the only prescription which falls under your bogus claim of calling Title VII of the CRA into action? Do you allow your Catholic employees to not fill prescriptions for other types of birth control, or for Viagra? How about antabuse for your alcoholic customers, or HIV medications for your homosexual clientele? Really, you have begun your slide down a very sinister slippery slope.

I know something about providing care to medical clients. I've been a registered nurse for 25 years, and there were plenty of times that I provided care to patients who may have made different decisions than I would have made, or who did not hold the same religious beliefs as I do. There have been times when I did not agree with the care I was being asked to provide. But I have NEVER denied care, and I have NEVER stood in judgment of a client's decision when what I was asked to do was legal and within the realm of standard care. I have always been there for the patient, not for myself and for what necessarily made me feel comfortable. And I would never have turfed my work to someone else. It was never about me. It's always been about the client and their needs. If I had not been able to think of the client first, then I would have had to leave nursing. Perhaps your pharmacists with such deeply held religious beliefs should give that option some thought.

Ironically, I have just come upstairs from discussing our family's boycott of Target for this issue with my husband. It is that important to me, though it will create a hardship. I have pulled my prescriptions from Target, and we have decided not to shop at your stores until you change your policy with regard to Plan B. My husband will no longer make his bimonthly run for bodywash, contact solution, and the like. My kids won't buy their playstation games or clothes there any longer. There are many more like me.

With all due respect, please don't whine about why Target is being "singled out." You're being "targeted" because you hold a policy which tolerates withholding safe, legally prescribed birth control to women based on someone else's religious beliefs. If that doesn't scare the hell out of you, then you're not paying attention.

Shame on Target.



And this message sent by a Boone resident:


Dear Target,

Because you have now established a policy that your pharmacists will no longer be required to fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptive Plan B, today our family established a new policy of no longer patronizing your stores. We have torn up our Target cards and have decided to let you know personally via email every time we spend elsewhere money that would have previously gone to your stores.

Please also consider this email a formal request to remove us from all mail solicitation.

We would also appreciate your responses to the following questions:

1. If one of your sales team members is an evangelical, are you now allowing them to refuse to sell Halloween costumes such as witches and devils?
2. Are your Baptist team members now excluded from having to sell rock and roll music?
3. Are your Jewish team members required to sell Christmas items?
4. Are your Lutheran team members now precluded from selling ornate religious icons?
5. Are your Unitarian team members allowed to refuse to sell "Left Behind" books?
6. Are your Jehovah Witness team members required to stock flashy clothes?

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Name Withheld
Boone, North Carolina

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