Friday, July 25, 2008

All birth control is now an “abortion?”

I’ll admit that in the beginning even I was a bit skeptical about the idea that the anti-abortion was going to have any chance of success in taking away women’s birth control. Sure they’d make some noise and make a lot of people nervous, but it wouldn’t really *happen.*

But the evidence is starting to pile up that they might have some success in, if not completely outlawing contraception, they can make it a lot more difficult to get.

The New York Times has a story about a leaked proposal that Health and Human Services (HHS) was circulating that would redefine all hormonal contraception as an “abortion.” Cristina Page writes about it here and here.

Now the reason why HHS would take this route is that by redefining contraception as “abortion” it gets around the Weldon and Church amendments, two laws that prohibit any agency receiving federal money from being required to offer abortion services. So if birth control becomes the same as abortion, there are a lot of ways this will have an effect on women’s ability to get contraception.

One of the main effects is that in 27 states there are laws requiring any employer that cover s prescription drugs to also cover contraception (because it’s not an “elective,” its not a cosmetic. It’s a regular part of health care for women and hence, if you cover diabetes medication employers should also be forced to cover birth control.) HHS’s proposed redefinition would then wipe out the state laws.

It would also immediate overcome any state rules about requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, or requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims.

Now here’s the thing about the so-called “right” for pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication, Susan Paynter in the Seattle PI has a lot of good examples of what happens when you allow pharmacists to suddenly make snap judgments about their customers.

And, at a pharmacy in Seattle, a woman's prescription for a cervix-dilating medication was refused by a pharmacist who suspected she was on her way to have an abortion. Not that it ought to matter, but the woman's physician prescribed the drug because she was about to have surgery for uterine fibroids.

And, in Yakima, a pharmacist refused to dispense syringes to a diabetic, assuming he was an IV drug user. And there are more infuriating scenarios, says Nancy Sapiro of the Northwest Women's Law Center.

I don’t understand why moralists who think that requiring pharmacists to dispense birth control – even if they don’t like their customers – is any different than refusing to sell condoms (or disposable syringes) to “certain people” because, well you just don’t like them. Pharmacists are regulated by their own boards (and many state and federal laws) that say you don’t get to pass judgment on your customers.

Meaning you are not allowed to discriminate against people because of their gender, skin color or religion. What if some atheist pharmacist refused to dispense heart medication to the local pastor because he/she didn’t like their sermons and wanted him to get sick and die. Isn't that part of the atheist's religious freedom? Can’t the local pastor just go SOMEWHERE ELSE to get his necessary medication? Wouldn’t that be infringing on the atheist pharmacist right to not sell to only people whose lives he approves of? Oh wait that's a ridiculous example you say? But is it?

Deborah Kotz has more.

FYI -- I'm thrilled habladora has asked me to contribute to Feminist Underground.

--cross-posted at NewsCat


Habladora said...

More proof that the 'pro-life' crowd isn't as much anti-abortion as it is anti-women-having-sex. I don't know if I want to scream or cry after reading about the HHS's latest maneuvering.

NewsCat - thanks for the informative (although enraging) first post. We're thrilled to have you!

frau sally benz said...

You've gotta hand it to these woman-hating, sex-hating folks-- they sure know how to take away people's rights without causing an uproar! Think about it, if they take away abortion rights, birth control, etc. very very slowly, then:
1) most people won't notice, 2) some who do notice say "oh, it's not so bad, it could be worse" and do nothing, and 3) some notice, do something, but then get ignored and pegged "angry feminists" because nobody else notices.
Then, voila, we're all left with no rights.

Can we try to come up with a way of being more effective at causing an uproar?! I, for one, am all out of ideas, but what does everyone else think?

Anonymous said...

A secret voice whispers in my ear that if men are trying to make it harder for women to enjoy sex, all the while making it easier for men to (with the viagra laws), it's because these men enjoy rape more than any other form of sex. I sincerely hope that the voice is wrong.

I for one don't know how we came to be a nation that tolerates this kind of mis-representation. It is clear to me that ours is a government that no longer represents the people, and as such, is no longer a valid govornment. The documents upon which this nation was founded state that it is the duty of the people to replace a defunct government with a better one. I just wonder how long it will take people to get angry enough to do something about it.

Anonymous said...

Great post. This is truly horrifying. When can we reclaim our country? Hopefully next November.

Really Republicans. Honestly. You want to make it harder for poor people to prevent unwanted pregnancies, prevent the termination of the pregnancy, and then eliminate social services to help support this child.

Habladora said...

Sally, I see what you mean about the slow eroding of rights going unnoticed - and I think the answer is to inform the public about what's happening. If more women - and reasonable men - understood that birth control is under attack, I think the public outcry would be inevitable. That's why pieces like those in the NYT and Cristina Page's are so important. Unfortunately, people will never pay as much attention to an article detailing the ins and outs of HHS's strategies as they do to celebrity news - until things come to a crisis. And I really, really don't want things to come to a crisis... So, how to get people to care now is a good question...

daedalus2u said...

I was thinking about this, and had the thought that if the rule change is made, that there will instantly be a lawsuit to prevent the rule from taking effect. I think there is an excellent case for maintaining the current status quo until that lawsuit is resolved.

I am no lawyer, but I think in that case, that discovery rules will require the disclosure of the basis under which the rule was formulated. This may force the disclosure of who in the Bush administration pushed this, and for what reasons.

Another possibility is that the court would decide that this redefines all abortion as "contraception", and so the Weldon and Church amendments get thrown out because the legislation never contemplated prohibiting hormonal contraception.

Since hormonal birth control meds can be taken for other reasons, even by women who are not sexually active, they can at most be a potential agent of an abortion. So can essentially any surgical instrument, any anesthetic drug, any antibiotic, any type of medical equipment that can be used under any circumstances for any type of abortion.

Renee said...

Our social rights and privileges have been under attack for quite some time now. Whether it is access to voting, abortion, freedom of assembly their is a massive backlash on anything that secures individual liberty. Governments have gone to great lengths to justify these restrictions and it is no accident that these changes are coming at a time when the income disparity is getting worse and we are experiencing anomie.
What we need to do is link together to fight all of these injustices hence the increased importance of intersectionality within feminism. If we do not critically engage we may well end up living lives very similar to that of our grandmothers soon. Margaret Atwood was almost prophetic when she wrote the handmaids tale.