HHS OCR Guidance to 60,000 Retail Pharmacies: Refusal to Fill Rx Based on Potential Pregnancy Termination Concerns Is a Civil Rights Violation, Will Be Investigated

On July 13, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance to retail pharmacies that refusing to dispense a prescribed medication or making a determination on the suitability of that medication on the basis of the patient’s sex, pregnancy, or pregnancy-related conditions is discriminatory conduct in violation of federal law.[1] The guidance made clear that refusing to dispense or making suitability determinations on the basis of a patient’s pregnancy or related conditions, such as past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, is considered a form of sex discrimination.

As recipients of federal funding, retail pharmacies are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability in their programs and activities under a range of federal civil rights laws.

Citing HHS’ commitment to improving maternal health, reducing maternal death rates and supporting women experiencing pregnancy loss, the guidance emphasized both the role of retail pharmacies

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