Boycott Bayview and Ralph's Thriftway
People of Olympia! Are you down for womens rights in the 21st century? The time to act is now!
Ralphs and Bayview Thriftways owner Kevin Storeman has decided (based on his own moral standards) that the pharmacy located at Ralph's Thriftway on the Eastside of Olympia will not carry the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B. Local activists have organized a pickett line to take place Wednesday 6/28, Thursday 6/29, Friday 6/30, and Sunday 7/2 from 5pm - 7pm. There will be sign making supplies at the pickett line and plenty of free thinking individuals to support the protection of health care for all women in this day and age. It's 2006! Let's show Mr. Storeman how his decision affects our community.
OLYMPIA - A new front is opening in the battle over a woman's access to emergency contraception, pitting activists against one of the city's most visible grocery chains.
Owners of Ralph's Thriftway, which has a pharmacy in its east-side location, say flatly they won't stock the Plan B morning-after pill on moral grounds.
"I don't want to get into a detailed debate," Kevin Stormans, one of the co-owners of Ralph's and Bayview Thriftways, said in an interview Tuesday. "I just think people have to choose when they believe life begins. There are questions about this drug on that issue."
More than a dozen activists, who had a planning session Monday evening, say they hope to launch a monthlong boycott of the two stores in July to try to change the decision by Stormans Inc., a fourth-generation family-owned enterprise that includes coffee and sandwich franchises.
Activists had been gearing up for a battle even before Stormans said it was a moral issue; he'd previously said the company doesn't stock the emergency contraception on grounds that weak demand for the pills - which are helpful to women who are sexually assaulted, have contraceptive failures or engage in unprotected sex - didn't justify it on business grounds.
"I can't shop there anymore," Olympia resident Janet Blanding told other activists Monday night at the city community center, explaining why she stepped forward to help organize the boycott.
"I hope we can take some action so they change the policy and I can start shopping there again."
"This is a very liberal community," Blanding added Tuesday in an interview. "I think enough people care enough about women's rights to boycott a store that is doing something like this."
Blanding also said she plans to file a complaint with the Washington State Board of Pharmacy, which regulates pharmacies and pharmacists in the state.
She said she believes Ralph's policy violates state law, which says that a "pharmacy must maintain at all times a representative assortment of drugs in order to meet the pharmaceutical needs of its patients."
"I think we will see hundreds of people and have quite an impact," Linda Malanchuk-Finnan, president of the South Sound chapter of National Organization of Women, said of the boycott, which NOW supports.
"I think people are shocked to find that (emergency contraception) is something they don't have and don't carry. I think people will be quite shocked. I'd like to see them continue to be the good community partner we thought they were in the past."
The issue over stocking Plan B is an outgrowth of another debate already raging at the Board of Pharmacy.
A draft rule goes before the board Aug. 31 that could let individual pharmacists refuse to provide a medication - such as Plan B - for reasons of conscience, but only if they made sure another pharmacist could fill it.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has said she might introduce her own rule for consideration and the pro-choice Democrat has warned that she might appoint new members to the pharmacy board next year if the board approves a rule interfering with consumer access to medications.
Several lawmakers, including Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, have warned they might introduce legislation requiring a pharmacist to fill legal prescriptions.
Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, NARAL and other advocacy groups have lined up in support of requiring pharmacists to dispense medications if lawfully prescribed, unless there are medical complications that might result.
And nationally, Wal-Mart chose to stock Plan B after a lawsuit in Massachusetts was filed.
More recently, the federal Food and Drug Administration has stymied efforts by Plan B's maker, Barry Pharmaceuticals, to win over-the-counter status for the emergency contraceptive, but no decision has been made.
South Sound activists now are taking the issue a step further than anyone apparently has in Washington.
Keylee Marineau, a boycott co-organizer with Blanding, said two-hour protests with pickets would begin at 5 p.m. June 28 at the Ralph's supermarket, and continue for three days. On July 1, the group plans to launch its monthlong July boycott of Ralph's and Bayvie w.
"I live very close to Ralph's and I shop there a lot," said Elaine Nelson, one of 15 women who attended Monday's boycott discussion. "I want to feel like I'm shopping someplace that is in line with the values of my community."
Added Rachel Smith, another activist: "Of all the political issues, this is one that affects me most personally. It affects my ability to control my body. I have used emergency contraception and was very grateful it was available to me. It made a difference that it was available immediately to me."
The protests won't change the policy, Kevin Stormans said.
"Obviously it's not something we would like to have happen. But it's not going to change our position. We've made our decision, and it's what we have determined. We're not going to change our position based on what happens. It's not a negotiable issue," he said.
"They certainly may have an effect on our business. If that happens, that's OK. People can make their choice. We've made our choice."
State law does not require the stocking of medications other than the syrup of ipecac, which is used to induce vomiting after poisonings, officials with the state Pharmacy Board say. Otherwise, pharmacists are left to determine what medications meet their patients' needs and are affordable and sensible to keep in stock.
State rules unclear
"No pharmacy will ever carry every drug," said Steven Saxe, executive director of the pharmacy board.
He was not aware of any complaints filed on the stocking issue.
As the draft rule is now written, Saxe said, a pharmacist or pharmacy refusing to fill a prescription would have to direct the patient to a pharmacy where the order could be filled.
Stormans said that's exactly what his pharmacy has been doing all along. Patients can obtain Plan B at Fred Meyer, Walgreens, Southgate Drug, ShopKo and Safeway, he said.
Planned Parenthood operates a clinic in downtown Olympia that dispenses the emergency contraception on weekdays, said Jennifer Allen, local public affairs coordinator for the group in South Sound.
Planned Parenthood has not yet formally endorsed the boycott, but likely will, Allen said.
Allen said that the immediacy of access for Plan B and other emergency contraception is key, including in cases of sexual assault, since the medication's five-day effectiveness decreases over time. "Even if that extreme situation (of rape) is not the case, many women are feeling intimidated when they ask for emergency contraception. So being turned away or being told to go someplace else can further traumatize someone," Allen said.
Stormans said calls to his store have come from both sides of the dispute. Asked to estimate the number of calls, he said: "maybe dozens."
Here is a copy of the rule, listed in the Washington Administrative Code:
Physical standards for pharmacies - Adequate stock.
(1) The pharmacy must maintain at all times a representative assortment of drugs in order to meet the pharmaceutical needs of its patients.
(2) Dated items - All merchandise which has exceeded its expiration date must be removed from stock.
(3) All stock and materials on shelves or display for sale must be free from contamination, deterioration and adulteration.
(4) All stock and materials must be properly labeled according to federal and state statutes, rules and regulations.
(5) Devices that are not fit or approved by the FDA for use by the ultimate consumer shall not be offered for sale and must be removed from stock.
(6) All drugs shall be stored in accordance with USP standards and shall be protected from excessive heat or freezing except as those drugs that must be frozen in accordance with the requirements of the label. If drugs are exposed to excessive heat or frozen when not allowed by the requirements of the label, they must be destroyed.
Statutory Authority: RCW 18.64.005 and chapter 18.64A RCW. 91-18-057 (Order 191B), recodified as § 246-869-150, filed 8/30/91, effective 9/30/91. Statutory Authority: RCW 18.64.005. 85-11-066 (Order 194), § 360-16-200, filed 5/21/85; Order 131, § 360-16-200, filed 2/4/77; Order 51 (part), filed 8/15/6
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