Friday, August 13, 1999

Refusal to sell abortion pill meant firing, suit says

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Pharmacist Karen Brauer sued Kmart on Thursday, saying she was fired for refusing to sell an abortion-inducing birth-control pill.

        That violated her rights, she said, because Ohio bars disciplinary action against anyone who refuses to “participate in medical procedures which result in abortion.”

        Her suit — filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati by attorneys Thomas Condit and Francis J. Manion — seeks unspecified damages.

        The Lawrenceburg, Ind., resident says Kmart hired her in 1989 knowing her conscientious objections.

        In the next seven years, Ms. Brauer managed or worked in Kmart pharmacies around the Tristate.

        All that time, she refused to stock or sell Micronor and other such birth-control pills because they can prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterine wall.

        When customers asked, Ms. Brauer sent them to other Kmart pharmacies. “It wasn't a matter of money. I only turned away about 10 prescriptions for that drug.”

        In December 1996, she told a Delhi Township customer that Micronor was out of stock rather than fill a prescription.

        The customer learned otherwise and complained.

        Ms. Brauer's district manager tried to save her job but he was overruled. Kmart told her to sign a pledge to fill any legal prescription or be fired.

        Rather than concede, she wrote, “In order to live in accordance with the dictates of my conscience, I must refuse to dispense prescriptions with a major abortifacient mechanism of action.”

        Since Dec. 19, 1996, she has only worked occasional relief for other pharmacies.

        “That made me very sad but there was no question what I had to do,” she said in an interview on Thursday. “I really like pharmacy. I moved into pharmacy from research.”

        Ms. Brauer, 40, said she knew her commitment — formed in part by her Roman Catholic faith and reinforced by her role as vice president of Pharmacists for Life International — eventually “would cause me trouble.”

        Thursday, Kmart corporate spokeswoman Mary Lorencz in Troy, Mich., said she had not seen Ms. Brauer's complaint and could not comment.

        However, Ms. Lorencz said, Kmart tries to accommodate employees' religious and conscientious objections.


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