Harris Teeter accused of limited access to emergency contraception

In Arlington, people protested over a lack of access to emergency contraception in Arlington. The demonstrators blasted grocery store chain Harris Teeter for what they call a company policy to hinder access to the morning after pill.

ARLINGTON, VA. (WUSA9) - A protest outside an Arlington Harris Teeter grocery store blasted the company over women's access to the morning after pill.

 

"We fought really hard, the right to have Plan B over the counter," said Alejandra Pablos, an advocate for Latinas. 

 

"Emergency contraception is authorized to be sold on the shelf, so you pick it up, like Tylenol. You take it to the cash register, you buy it.   But that's not what Harris Teeter does," said Erin Matson, another protestor.

 

The protestors said Harris Teeter has as company policy that keeps emergency contraception like Plan B One Step off the regular shelves. 

 

The pharmacists said that company policy requires those pills be kept at the pharmacy, but all customers have to do is ask for it. 

 

Critics said that policy puts up a barrier if the pharmacy is closed. 

 

"What Harris Teeter does is put a card on the shelf and they force customers to talk to a pharmacist or a store manager.  That's patronizing.  It's insulting.  It's like we've done something wrong.  They're acting like women are stupid.  Women aren't stupid. We know when we don't want to be pregnant," said Matson. 
 

WUSA9 checked some other stores.  A CVS nearby on Glebe Road also had no Plan B on the shelf.  It did have a card that said customers could get the pill at the front counter.  
A store clerk said the reason the product is not left on the shelves is because "people steal it."   It costs $49. The cheaper version, Aftera, is $39. 

 

At two Giant grocery stores WUSA9 also found no emergency contraceptive on the shelves, but at the pharmacy.   A pharmacist said the product is kept behind the counter because of its expense, not because of any corporate policy.  

 

Harris Teeter's Communications Department sent us the following statement.

 

"Harris Teeter prides itself on providing our shoppers with the best shopping experience. To best serve our shoppers and meet their immediate needs, we advertise the product on the shelf with clear directions as to where the shopper can obtain the item—in our pharmacy and non-pharmacy stores. This is in line with many other grocery retailer policies."

"I'm really not sure why Harris Teeter is doing it.  If they want to be the family friendly pharmacy and grocery store that they say they are, they wouldn't be putting their customers though a retail obstacle course," said Caitlin Blunnie with the protest organization Reproaction, a group recently formed to increase awareness to abortion.
 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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