As one of the 4 fired Walgreens pharmacist. I was fired for not signing a policy saying that I would indeed fill a prescription if presented with it. I did not see a prescription! Walgreens does not respect a pharmacist's right to choose. I was one of Walgreens' best pharmacists prior to this issue. I had no problem with telling someone when a pharmacist would be available to fill a prescription. I can not fill the presriptions myself but I try to the best of my ability to not take a side because I want to be able to tell people that this drug can end a life if a woman does have questions. By taking the position I take I find women asking questions. I believe many women wouldn't use this drug if the knew how it can work. If a woman is going to make a real choice as the other side says then the women needs to have access to both “pro-choice” pharmacist and pro-life pharmacist like myself, so her choice is an informed choice. I pray that by trying to take a neutral position on this issue that some women will listen and some children will live.
The one thing I could not be neutral on is the issue of dispensing. When my three supervisors fired me, I told them "It feels very good knowing that my Faith and Religion is more important to me than a paycheck."
The following is a testimony I gave on a house bill earlier this year .
Public Hearing on HB4346 before the House State Government Administration Committee
February 15, 2006
I would like to thank Rep. Granberg for introducing this bill and all members of this committee for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
My name is JOHN A. MENGES and I am a licensed pharmacist in the state of Illinois. I am one of the four pharmacists who lost my job with Walgreens for failing to sign an Emergency Contraceptive Policy that violated my religious beliefs. To make things clear to all members of this committee during the 8 months I worked following the Governor’s mandate I was not presented with a prescription to fill. During the 3 years I worked at Walgreens I can only recall being presented with prescriptions for this medication 3 times and during that time I estimate that I filled over 71,000 prescriptions.
I am here today because I can not dispense any drug designed to end a human life. Before I enter any discussion of these drugs I would like to try to clarify some terminology. For me human life begins when fertilization occurs. Fertilization is the point at which the sperm penetrates the egg. Life for me is the issue. The redefining of the terms “pregnancy” and “conception” in 1965 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists only confuse this life issue more. Prior to 1965 “pregnancy” and “conception” began at fertilization when life begins. Now “pregnancy” and “conception” begins at implantation of the embryo in the uterus. This still doesn’t negate the fact that embryologists world-wide agree unanimously that human life begins at fertilization. This does explain why the morning after pill is classified as a contraceptive by the FDA and not as an abortafacient and I hope this clarifies why many say this drug doesn’t end a pregnancy. Understanding the terminology enables one to realize how confusing the words fertilization, pregnancy, and conception have become. With this very simple explanation of the terminology I want to remind you that the beginning of human life at the point of fertilization is the issue for me. I hold human life at this stage in development with the same respect I hold for any human life.
The drugs I was referring to as I tried to explain some definitions are classified as “emergency contraceptives” by the FDA. Presently “Plan B” also known as the “morning after pill” is the only drug approved to be used for emergency contraception but most oral contraceptives can be dosed to work as emergency contraception. Emergency contraceptive doses are doses that are higher than doses of regular birth control. To simplify my discussion of emergency contraceptives I will limit my discussion to “Plan B”. Plan B consists of two Progestin tablets containing 0.75mg of levonorgestrel. The first tablet is to be taken within 72 hours of intercourse and the second tablet 12 hours after the first dose. Without getting into to much detail here the problem I have is the significant post-fertilization mechanism of action by which these drugs work. The mechanisms of action stated in the manufactures prescribing information include preventing ovulation, altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova, or inhibiting implantation by altering the endometrium. The time during a women’s menstrual cycle plays an important role in what mechanism of action is at work. The menstrual cycle can last anywhere from 21 to 40 days. Ovulation usually occurs 14 to 15 days before the end of the cycle. If emergency contraception is given early in the cycle it is more likely to prevent ovulation. But during this time ovulation and pregnancy are less likely to occur anyway. As the time for ovulation nears the chance for emergency contraception to prevent ovulation will lessen to the effect that ovulation can occur in some instances after emergency contraception has been taken. Once ovulation has occurred and fertilization has taken place any mechanism that prevents this implantation is the ending of human life.
So what am I doing as a pharmacist if I can’t dispense a drug approved by the FDA? Believe me I asked myself this question when the first emergency contraceptive was approved by the FDA in 1998. I was a pharmacy manager in a supermarket pharmacy at the time. My number one priority as pharmacy manager is the same as it is today and that is customer service to my patients. I have always made it known to my employees, supervisors, and patients that I work first for the patient. My employer was a direct beneficiary of this as I always made them look good. The day the first emergency contraceptive was approved I talked with the staff pharmacist who worked with me about his thoughts. Neither of us could dispense emergency contraceptives as it went against everything we believed in. The question I and many pharmacists had to answer was which patient do we serve? Do we serve the women requesting emergency contraceptive or the human life she could be carrying? I could not make a decision to participate in ending any human life so my decision was to refer women and answer any questions they might have if and when the situation arose.
So here I am almost 8 years after the first emergency contraceptives were approved and I can only recall 5 times that I have been faced with prescriptions. Three of those prescriptions I saw while employed with Walgreens. Not that a person can derive any statistical conclusions from 5 prescriptions but I didn’t have incident with any of those encounters. In fact I have been thanked for my willingness to talk about emergency contraceptives as many pharmacists avoid the issue. This leads me to the moral issue I read about in different editorials. My choice to step aside and not fill these prescriptions in no way is a reflection of me trying to push my morals on others. It is my upholding my moral beliefs for myself. Our government allows women to make this choice and my actions have never prevented any women from exercising her choice. I have a choice too and my choice is not to dispense any medication that will end a human life. Those are morals that I have to live up to. The people who think I try to push my morals on others need to ask themselves why I dispense medication to patients who have just had an abortion for pain and bleeding. I give these patients the same respect I give every patient. The answers are simple as I went into pharmacy to help people not hurt people. I don’t ask questions as to why people need my help because morals don’t play a role in my helping people. I went into pharmacy to care for people and help them improve their lives. I love the profession of pharmacy because of all the good I am able to do as a pharmacist. Pharmacy goes beyond the counseling, recommendations and referrals I give. It is much more than my filling prescriptions fast and accurately. It is the respect I give every patient. I listen to my patients and help them when I can. I will never intentionally do any harm to any patient.
On November 28th of last year I lost my job because of my conscience objective to filling a medication that ends human life. My employer fired me for not signing policy asking me to violate my conscience. During the 8 months following the Governor’s mandate I was not presented with a prescription to fill. Even though I believe I am currently covered under The Health Care Right of Conscience Act, I would like to ask every member of the house to vote YES on HB 4346. I am not of a small minority of pharmacist in this state who can’t fill these medications. By voting YES on HB 4346 you will protect other pharmacist from having to endure what I, my wife, and my 2 children have had to endure these past months. It is difficult to explain my feelings. It hurts.
Without saying anymore I would like to answer any questions members might have. Thank You.