Rx for Drugstore Discrimination: Challenging Pharmacy Refusals to Dispense Prescription Contraceptives Under State Public Accommodations Laws
Pharmacy refusals to dispense prescription contraceptives are deeply alarming on several fronts. First, pharmacy refusal threatens to deny millions of American women an essential health care service. American women depend upon contraception to plan their families, as well as to reduce the number of unwanted, teenage, and high-risk pregnancies. Timely access to contraception is crucial for survivors of sexual assault. Some women must also take the birth control pill to control gynecological conditions unrelated to pregnancy and to prevent life-threatening complications. Moreover, access to contraception is also unquestionably central to a woman's right to self-determination and right to reproductive freedom.
Based on the assumption that women's access to prescription contraceptýves is essential to gender equality, this article contends that pharmacy refusals to dispense prescription contraceptýves constitute sex-based discrimination. This article then examines the possibility for legal redress against this sex discrimination through litigation or administrative action and contends that state public accommodation statutes are a promising vehicle for challenging such claims for a number of reasons. Many state public accommodations statutes explicitly prohibit gender-based discrimination, consider pharmacies to be places of public accommodation, and offer legal redress against such discriminatory acts. Case law interpreting the gender-based protections of the statute has already developed in some of these jurisdictions and, in turn, would aid in the legal resolution of a pharmacy refusal gender discrimination claim.