Wal-Mart Abstains From Morning-After Pill

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Is it a business decision, a political decision or a moral decision? Wal-Mart, the nationís fifth largest distributor of pharmaceutical products -- and often the sole druggist in smaller communities -- has decided not to sell an FDA-approved medication. The drug is Preven, a prescription morning-after pill that prevents pregnancy. The company says itís strictly a "business decision"; Planned Parenthood and others involved in the birth control and abortion debate arenít so sure. They believe the company is reacting to pressure from pro-life groups, though the company denies it.

But whether based on "business" or fears that stocking the pill will offend Wal-Mart's oft-conservative customers in rural areas, is it appropriate for a pharmacy to stop dispensing a legal medication? "Imagine, for instance," says TIME medical columnist Christine Gorman, "if for business reasons the company had decided not to dispense insulin" -- would Wal-Martís decision be ethically supportable? "This is a dangerous, slippery-slope situation," says Gorman. By the way, although the company will no longer be dispensing Preven, it will still be selling Viagra.