Wichita A pharmacist's refusal to fill a woman's prescription for emergency contraception sparked a protest outside a Walgreen Co. store on Thursday.
The woman went to the store on Dec. 28 after receiving the prescription at a Planned Parenthood clinic. But the pharmacist would not fill it because of his personal beliefs.
On one side of the street Thursday, more than three dozen people joined the Planned Parenthood protest. Across the street, about a dozen abortion opponents demonstrated against emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception - also referred to as the "morning after pill" - is a high dosage of birth control pills that can prevent a woman from getting pregnant if taken within 120 hours after sex.
Walgreen spokesman Michael Polzin said the pharmacist was within his rights not to fill the prescription.
"We do give our pharmacists, where state law allows, the ability to step away from filling a prescription that they object to on moral grounds," Polzin said.
But Polzin said the pharmacist mishandled the situation because he allowed the woman to leave the store without finding someone else to help her - either another pharmacist there or at another store.
"We have spoken with that pharmacist, and he has assured us that the policy will be followed, and that he will proactively take steps to ensure that patients will be able to get the prescription filled," he said.
Planned Parenthood is pushing for a policy that ensures that prescriptions are filled in-house in a timely manner.
"Nationwide, we're all working on that," said Darcy Weaver, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman.
Weaver said it's unfair to ask patients - some with no transportation - to go to other stores to have legal, valid prescriptions filled.
But Polzin called the existing policy "a good one." He said it "first and foremost meets our obligations to take care of the patients' health care needs while at the same time respecting the views of our pharmacists."
Five Illinois pharmacists have been suspended indefinitely by Walgreen Co. for refusing to fill prescriptions, in violation of a rule imposed last April by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.