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Wal-Mart Stores announced that it will begin carrying “Plan B” morning-after contraceptive pills in all its pharmacies, though it said that pharmacists who feel uncomfortable with dispensing the morning-after pill could refer consumers either to another pharmacist or another pharmacy.

The move was in response to moves by states such as Massachusetts, Illinois and Connecticut to force Wal-Mart to carry the legal pills in their state-licensed pharmacies. "We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead," Ron Chomiuk, vice president of pharmacy for Wal-Mart, said. "Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it.”

The company was never specific about its reticence about carrying the pills, only saying that it was for business reasons.
KC's View:
We find this story troubling on several levels…

Exactly why won’t Wal-Mart be specific about its decision not to carry the morning-after pills? We would assume that it was a decision that can be traced back to a concern that it would offend the members of its constituency that are against abortion or even contraception, but why wouldn’t the company come right out and say it was making what it viewed as a moral decision? And was there a major outcry against the morning-after pill that somehow we missed, and to which Wal-Mart felt obliged to respond – even though it didn’t want to be out front with the rationale behind its response?

And should consumers be comfortable with the notion that individual pharmacists now can make decisions about what they will or will not dispense?

Our reaction to this story has been that while companies certainly have the right to make decisions about what they will and will not carry, maybe they shouldn’t have quite so much latitude when it comes to legally prescribed products sold out of state-licensed facilities such as pharmacies.

We’ll stand by that. But we are mostly troubled by the fact that this whole scenario has too much back-story about which people are not talking.