By Mackenzie McCoy
On July 13, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance for pharmacies regarding their obligations to patients requesting reproductive health care. After the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022), many reproductive healthcare providers have been searching for legal guidance when navigating what types of healthcare they are permitted to offer their patients. The document released by the OCR highlights the important role that pharmacists play in the health care system and that under federal civil rights laws, pharmacists are obligated to serve their patients without discrimination.
The release cites section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act 42 U.S.C.S § 18116, which states that an entity receiving federal funding cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of sex or disability. Denying the right to access healthcare on the basis of pregnancy or potential for pregnancy is in violation of the ACA’s sex discrimination policy. The OCR reiterated the importance of pharmacies in the American health care system stating that pharmacies tend to be the most accessible and most accessed health care providers in the United States, thus reiterating how important it is for pharmacies to follow these guidelines.
The OCR states that it is imperative that women and pregnant people have access to healthcare without hindrance or discrimination and that healthcare includes reproductive care. Failure to follow such guidelines will violate federal civil rights laws and could have disastrous consequences for those seeking care.