‘I can’t give you the morning-after pill... it’s against my religion’

A MUM was refused the morning-after pill because it was “against the religion” of the pharmacist who served her.

The “stunned” 29-year-old left Boots, in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool, with her prescription still in her hand after being told to go to another store in the town.

She says just moments before she was refused the pill, the same member of staff had served methadone to a heroin addict.

The mum, who wished not to be named, left the store “absolutely gobsmacked”.

She then didn’t get the opportunity to take the pill until two days later - increasing the risk of her being pregnant.

A spokeswoman for Boots said their employees have the right to exercise a “conscience clause” and decline to serve the patient on religious or ethical grounds.

But a number of contraceptive agencies have spoken out after the service refusal, with one describing the situation as “appalling”.

Christopher Akers-Belcher, co-ordinator of Hartlepool Local Involuntary Network (LINK), which works to promote and support commissioning, provision and scrutiny of local health and social care services, told the Mail: “If an employee is providing a service, regardless of their beliefs, they are committed to that service which they deliver.”

Morning-after pills contain hormones which stop ovaries releasing eggs.

They can be taken up to three days after sex, but are most effective in the first 12 hours.

The mum picked up a prescription from One Life Hartlepool, in Park Road, on Sunday morning before making her way to the Boots store in the shopping centre.

“I was stunned when he wouldn’t serve me, absolutely gobsmacked, I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“For someone to hand out methadone but refuse to serve the morning-after pill, what gives them the right to do that?

“He told me to go to another store, but why should I? I was stood there with the prescription in my hand.”

Due to her child taking ill, the mum had to rush home shortly afterwards. She then spent Monday caring for the youngster and didn’t get the chance to pick up her prescription until Tuesday.

“I have been to the store since and the manager couldn’t be sorry enough,” added the woman.

“But that pill isn’t going to be as effective as it would have been if I was served like I should have been in the first place.”

A spokeswoman for Boots said: “Many Boots stores provide an Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) service in addition to dispensing NHS and private prescriptions for EHC.

“On a very rare occasion, however, the individual pharmacist may wish to exercise what is known as the ‘conscience clause’ and decline to serve the patient on religious or ethical grounds.

“If a pharmacist’s religious or moral beliefs prevent him or her from providing a particular service, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s Standard of Conduct, Ethics and Performance states that the pharmacist should refer the patient to other providers.

“We are sorry if this has caused any inconvenience. We will be reviewing the process with the store involved.”“If a pharmacist on the whole is against giving out contraception they should put a sign up and make women aware.”

Darinka Aleksic, campaign co-ordinator for Abortion Rights, described the situation as “appalling.”

She said: “In a situation like this, the health and well-being of the customer has to come before ideological beliefs.

“We think it’s right that women have the right to access contraception.

“Where push comes to shove, health and well-being must come first.”