WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the same time Wal-Mart faces the largest gender discrimination class action lawsuit in U.S. history, affecting 1.6 million women, three Massachusetts women are now suing Wal-Mart over its failure to provide access to emergency contraceptive pills.
Wal-Mart's decision not to stock or sell emergency contraception — also known as Plan B or the "morning-after pill" — unnecessarily denies women everywhere their right to access a legally-approved drug. The lawsuit charges that Wal-Mart is violating a Massachusetts policy requiring pharmacies in the state to dispense all "commonly prescribed medicines."
Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott should not decide what medicines women may or may not take. Wal-Mart's actions are clearly an outrageous intrusion into the health and privacy of all U.S. women. When a doctor prescribes emergency contraception for a woman, Wal-Mart does not have the right to overrule that decision.
To be most effective, emergency contraception should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. Because Wal-Mart has put so many smaller stores out of business, in a number of areas it is the only pharmacy for miles. No woman at risk for unintended pregnancy, be it the result of a broken condom or sexual assault, should be turned away by Wal-Mart and forced to find another pharmacy while the clock is ticking.
Wal-Mart's statement that they choose "not to carry many products for business reasons," rings hollow and dismisses the heartfelt concerns of many women in this country.
We strongly support the lawsuit brought in Massachusetts and will fight to make sure all women who work at Wal-Mart or choose to shop there are treated fairly and equally and have access to all legally-approved medications.
We call on Wal-Mart to stop discriminating against women, reverse their policy on blocking access to emergency contraception pills, and to ensure, in the future, all legal medicines are provided to women at Wal-Mart pharmacies across the U.S.
Dr. Martha Burk
Director, Corporate Accountability Project
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Organization for Women
NARAL Pro-Choice America
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
May 12, 2014