Bush Administration: Still Okay to Deny Women Contraception
Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards report in today's NY Times op-ed section that the Bush administration is, once again, attempting to block women's access to basic reproductive care.
"LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.
Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception."
This looks suspiciously like the rules that allowed Pharmacists to opt out of performing their duties: refusing to fill prescriptions that they objected to on moral grounds. Well, that pissed me off then, and this pisses me off now.
As I wrote a couple of years ago, after discovering that getting hold of Plan B contraception was not as easy as it would appear:
"Acquiring Plan B contraception is not as easy as it is made out to be. Several months ago, I started dating a man, things progressed quickly one hot, lazy summer afternoon, and we had sex. The next morning, I woke up, counted days, felt the familiar twinge in my side, and realized I was ovulating. Plan B seemed like a damned good idea. I called my doctor's office. I asked the receptionist to have one of the docs phone in a prescription for Plan B. "We don't do that," she said, in an extremely tight voice. I could hear the disapproval dripping from her voice. I called Planned Parenthood, got an appointment for that morning. I had to pay a full appointment fee and then pay for medication. Not cheap. But I did it. And, I'm delighted to say, did not get pregnant that month. "
When I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks later about something unrelated, I asked why the office did not phone in Plan B prescriptions. "But we do," I remember her saying, and it turned out that the receptionist had decided that I wasn't getting Plan B--not the doctor, not my pharmacist.
I am lucky to live in a town where my pharmacist has never questioned a precription that's been written for me other than to ask me if I have any questions. He and I have had long conversations about various drugs, the cost of medication these days, the increasing co-pays by which insurance companies actively discourage one from taking the medicine you've been prescribed. We see a lot of people trying to get in the way of the doctor-patient relationship.
Imagine, though, if you live in a small town. Maybe the doctor you see follows the Hippocratic Oath, and has determined to care for their patients in the best way possible. But maybe her nurse, or her receptionist, or her billing clerk, thinks contraception interferes with the natural result of sex. Or thinks that prescribing minors contraception is a sin.
According to Bush's new plan to once again ram morals down the throat of science, it would be the physician (or clinic, or hospital's) responsibility to CERTIFY that none of its employees were being asked to perform duties it found morally repugnant. Getting birth control might meen being asked to schedule on a day when everyone you might see on your way in and out of the building is "okay" with your health needs.
The rage I felt that day I found out that it was the receptionist who had made my contraception decision for me has re-flared today after reading the editorial At the time, I wrote the following:
"In the late 19th century, the Comstock laws made it a federal offense for certain information to cross state lines. In other words, magazines and mail that contained information about birth control was not allowed to circulate. Even though many of the methods of birth control we have now--condoms, diaphragms, and others--were available, the information that they existed could not circulate freely in the culture. Women often didn't know that they had options.
Increasingly, it's not that birth control is not available, it's that the knowledge that it's available is being repressed. If you live in a small town and need Plan B, are you going to know where you can go if your local pharmacist decides not to dispense your prescription? How can we help these women?
Finally, the pharmacist's job is not to dispense shame. I don't know what the figures are for men who've attempted to have their Viagra prescriptions filled and been denied. I can't imagine that there's been a lot of these cases. Because, when it all comes down to it, it's still okay for men to have sex. But, because I have sex, and I want access to birth control after the fact, I'm a whore.
I think I'm going to have that embroidered on a pillow."
Apparently, the Bush Administration wants to take us back to the day of the Comstock Laws. We already have an international gag rule, and soon, we may have rules that if your physician happens to live in a town that is dominated by certain views of sex, he or she may not be able to hire enough people who would agree to do the jobs they are supposed to be doing.
Pharmacists for Life (sic) are already trying to place themselves in enough towns that they can deny prescriptions for medicines they don't believe in. If this rule passes, will there be entire training sessions for people to get jobs so they can just say no?