In the battle over "conscience rights" of pharmacists, a Washington State Board of Pharmacy rule that requires pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions is making its way through federal courts.
In the battle over abortion, the Bush Administration's Health and Human Services Department has drafted a new rule, ostensibly to ensure that "doctors, hospitals and health plans would not be forced to perform abortions."
These two fronts are related. Trust me and read on!
Under the draft HHS rule, "all recipients of aid under federal health programs [would have to] certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and even certain types of birth control." In the process, the Agency is proposing to redefine abortion to include contraception:
[Abortion is] any of the various procedures — including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action — that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation.
Conception occurs with the joining of an egg and sperm in the fallopian tubes; the likelihood that this fertilized egg will result in miscarriage is about 75%. Within a week or so, if the fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus, the likelihood of miscarriage drops to about 31%. However, several birth control methods may interfere with implantation, including the birth control pill, emergency contraception and IUDs.
The new definition for abortion proposed in this draft rule, as my colleague Tom Head notes, "is so broad that it even includes the Roman Catholic Church's preferred method of birth control" (the rhythm method). And Linda Lowen reiterates that "the birth control pill, the morning after pill, and IUDs are all forms of contraception," not abortion.
Quickly move from the East Coast back to the West Coast.
The Washington State Pharmacy Board said that a patient's right to have a legal prescription filled trumped the right of a pharmacist -- a profession vetted by the State and granted a form of monopoly in the process -- to refuse to dispense because he thinks the drug in question is immoral or against his religious practice.
The drug in question is Plan B, commonly referred to as the "morning-after" pill.
Starting to connect these dots yet?
According to Reuters:
The proposed [HHS] rule is specifically designed to counter recent state laws enacted to ensure that women can get contraception when they want or need it.
"Despite the fact that several conscience statutes protecting health care entities from discrimination have been in existence for decades, recent events suggest the public and people in the health care industry are largely uninformed of the protections," the draft reads.
"In May 2007, Connecticut passed a law requiring all hospitals to distribute Plan B to rape victims, despite religious organizations' objections to the abortifacient nature of the drug," it adds.
As I wrote two years ago, the political war on morning after or emergency contraception has morphed into a war on all contraception. Remember: before Roe v Wade was 1965's Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception. A quote from that article:
'We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion,'' says Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, an organization that has battled abortion for 27 years but that, like others, now has a larger mission. ''The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set,'' she told me. ''So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome. We oppose all forms of contraception.''
In 2006, on the eve of the Roe v. Wade ruling, Bush told anti-abortion activists that "we will prevail ...that the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence apply to everyone, not just to those considered healthy or wanted or convenient."
This battle is part of the "culture war." Rather than focus on issues of substance -- such as those affecting the nation's solvency, the housing crisis, or the Iraq War -- these folks prefer to focus on individual behavior, insisting that their morality is the only true morality. And rather than fight this war in the open, the Bush Administration is now trying to hide behind administrative law -- rulemaking -- and a bit of Orwellian redefinition.
From the Charlotte Observer:
While federal law already ensures that doctors, hospitals and health plans can't be forced to perform abortions if they have religious or ethical objections, this regulation would apparently let providers also refuse to dispense birth control.
It appears specifically designed to undermine recent state laws enacted to ensure that women can get contraception when they want or need it. Opponents say the proposed rule would let a medical worker's beliefs trump a patient's rights to birth control...
We suspect President Bush's anti-abortion appointees at HHS hoped to sneak this ridiculous measure into place before they depart Washington in a few months. They should be ashamed.
And the proposed regulation should die a swift death.
- Pharmacy Rights Battleground: Washington State
- Plan B Spotlight
- When 'Contraception' is Mislabeled 'Abortion' - Clinton Speaks Out
- Issue Summary: Abortion
- Rethinking The 2007 Abortion Ruling
- The Bush Administration's Definition of Abortion May Include Contraception, Rhythm Method, Atkins Diet