Death of a Conscience Clause
moiv printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue May 02, 2006 at 08:43:18 AM EST
Women all across the country continue to walk into pharmacies, present prescriptions for emergency contraception, common birth control pills, or even medications such as antibiotics, and find themselves at the mercy of a growing number of graduates of the Faith-Based School of Pharmacology.  

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

In most states besides Illinois -- where Governor Rod  Blagojevich outraged the Operation Save America-affiliated Angela Michael and other self-appointed guardians of "Christian" morality by requiring pharmacists to do their jobs -- women continue to be denied prescribed medication with seeming impunity. This, despite the fact that only Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota have passed laws protecting pharmacists who refuse to dispense emergency contraception.

In 2005 such a piece of legislation was introduced in Texas, where it might have been expected to barrel through our rabidly anti-choice legislature like the Wabash Cannonball. But strangely enough, the bill was swiftly killed off in committee - and by avowedly "pro-life" Republicans. In an unexpected twist of irony instructive to those fighting for a woman's right to contraception in the face of the religious right's campaign against birth control, an abortion statute already in existence dealt the death blow to a "conscience clause."

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingIn early 2005, Texas State Representative Frank "The Fetus" Corte was so eager to deny women in Texas access to emergency contraception that he pre-filed his House Bill 16 before the legislative session had even convened. Quite typically for a "moral refusal" bill - and like pharmacists who perhaps skipped class for Bible study while their professors were explaining the pharmacology of birth control pills - Corte's HB 16 attempted to conflate emergency contraception and abortion.

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT

relating to the right to object to participation in an abortion procedure or to the dispensing of an emergency contraceptive.
:::
A physician, pharmacist, nurse, staff member, or employee of a hospital, [or other] health care facility, or pharmacy who objects to directly or indirectly
performing or participating in an abortion procedure or dispensing an emergency contraceptive may not be required to directly or indirectly:

(1)  perform or participate in the procedure; or                
(2)  dispense or participate in the dispensing of the contraceptive.

In a state like Texas, where Corte and his Senate counterpart Tommy Williams had steamrollered a draconian antiabortion bill through the legislature only two years before, passage of HB 16 should have been assured.  But Corte ran into an unexpected obstacle as his bill was being considered by the State Affairs Committee of the Texas House.  

To Frank Corte's consternation, someone stood up in the committee hearing room and read from the "Woman's Right to Know Act" that Corte himself had authored only two years before: "An abortion may be performed only by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state."  That one sentence, introduced into law by Corte himself, spelled the death of his "conscience clause" bill.

Of course, the peculiar religiously-based notion that EC constitutes an abortion is the sole grounds upon which some pharmacists refuse to dispense it.  Even members of the committee who were as opposed to reproductive choice as Corte is were quick to realize the possible, and even probable, repercussions. Once a state statute had codified and sanctioned the concept that the hormones contained in emergency contraception - hormones identical to those in 21 commonly prescribed brands of birth control pills that are used for EC - could be deemed capable of producing an abortion, it could plausibly be argued that only a physician could legally dispense a daily birth control pill.  

The voters wouldn't like that. After all, with 70% of sexually active American women wishing to avoid pregnancy, even most nominally anti-choice women need birth control. The major drug chains wouldn't like the loss of such a lucrative source of income much, either. You know, companies like Walgreens, which is racking up quite a record as a defender of pharmacists who equate their own diplomas with those issued by schools of divinity.

The city of Austin, Texas has even found it necessary to legally constrain Walgreens from denying city employees contraception. Nevertheless, Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin says that his company has a comprehensive policy in place for accommodating the delicate moral sensibilities of any of its more than 15,000 pharmacists who might be so professionally deficient as to believe that emergency contraception is a form of abortion, while making sure that women who would like to avoid a real abortion are able to obtain a simple dose of hormones that gold standard studies show to do nothing but delay ovulation. And Polzin insists that any such refusals are rare events. As he explained after a complaint was lodged against Walgreens in Wichita, Kansas, "We think our policy is a good one and that it first and foremost meets our obligations to take care of the patients' health care needs while at the same time respecting the views of our pharmacists."

Polzin's explanation of Walgreens' "good" policy is quoted in an article detailing the results of a Kentucky study conducted by the Reproductive Freedom Project.

Walgreens: Spokesman Michael Polzin said in a phone interview last week: "We stock it in our pharmacies as we would any other medication, according to demand. Our policy is that we want to respect the views of our pharmacists while still meeting the health care needs of our patients. We feel we can do that by allowing the pharmacists to step away from filling a prescription they have a moral objection to. However, the pharmacist must refer that prescription to another pharmacist on duty," or alert store management. Management will arrange to have it filled at a nearby pharmacy, before the patient leaves the store, he said. One caveat is that where applicable, state law trumps store policy.

And sometimes, as Walgreens found out last year in Illinois, anti-choice intimidation trumps almost anything.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Fortunately for the women of Illinois, Governor Blagojevich wasn't impressed.

So far, if the many published reports of pharmacy refusal complaints are anything to go by, corporate policies haven't let respect for state legal requirements get in the way of respect for "moral objections."  As just one example, let's take a peek at pharmacy licensing standards in Texas regarding the filling of prescriptions.  

(b) Prescription dispensing and delivery.
 :::
(A) All prescription drugs and/or devices shall be dispensed and delivered safely and accurately as prescribed.
:::
(C) The pharmacy shall utilize a delivery system which is designed to assure that the drugs are delivered to the appropriate patient.

(D) All Pharmacists shall exercise sound professional judgment with respect to the accuracy and authenticity of any prescription drug order they dispense. If the pharmacist questions the accuracy or authenticity of a prescription drug order, he/she shall verify the order with the practitioner prior to dispensing.

(E) Prior to dispensing a prescription, pharmacists shall determine, in the exercise of sound professional judgment, that the prescription is a valid prescription. A pharmacist may not dispense a prescription drug if the pharmacist knows or should have known that the prescription was issued on the basis of an Internet-based or telephonic consultation without a valid patient-practitioner relationship.

(F) Subparagraph (E) of this paragraph does not prohibit a pharmacist from dispensing a prescription when a valid patient-practitioner relationship is not present in an emergency situation (e.g. a practitioner taking calls for the patient's regular practitioner).

Aside from a few lines about the proper packaging and shipping of prescription drugs, that's about it - with nary a word that possibly could be construed as permitting a pharmacy's employees to impose the rigid strictures of their own peculiarly religious, and decidedly unscientific, "views" upon a woman who asks only that a pharmacist do the job for which he or she was issued a professional license, the retention of which is subject to a pharmacist's compliance with state standards of practice.  

Even in the absence of a direct order such as the one issued by the governor of Illinois, Texas pharmacists have no legal ground to stand on when refusing to fill a prescription for contraceptives on "moral grounds."  That is why Frank Corte recognized the need for his quickly aborted attempt to provide legal cover for dominion-minded pharmacists with his "conscience clause" measure, HB 16. And despite the spin of corporate front men such as Michael Polzin, no straddle-the-fence corporate policy overrides compliance with any state's requirements for pharmacy licensure.

But laws only matter when they're enforced. Last Friday our clinic received a call from a young woman who reported that a pharmacist in her East Texas city had just informed her that his store, owned by a major pharmacy chain with a history of refusal incidents, would not honor her prescription for Plan B because "even if we have it, we don't sell it, for ethical reasons."  

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The young woman had called because she wanted to help ensure that no other woman would be subjected to such humiliating treatment, and asked for information about how to file a complaint.

On Monday, I had the great pleasure of wishing that young woman every success in her new client relationship with the National Women's Law Center.  

[Title image copyrighted by Eleanor Mills, reproduced by permission]




Display:
In fact, he's all in favor of choice for school vouchers, and also introduced a bill that would provide him with exactly enough public funding to cover the $5,900 he pays in private school tuition for each of his own children -- and with $100 left over for uniforms.

by moiv on Tue May 02, 2006 at 03:20:24 AM EST

Increasingly, "conscience clause" exemptions that allow pharmacists from "opting out" of their jobs to provide prescribed birth control are using these exemptions to refuse other medications:

a) There are reports that Valtrex has been refused patients based on "conscience clauses" on the sole basis Valtrex is an antiherpetic which can be used to treat genital herpes (Valtrex has many other indications besides genital herpes--the most common being for treatment of and prevention of chickenpox infection in immunocompromised children and in adults, treatment of shingles, and preventive treatment of simian herpesvirus B (a fatal infection in man, and an industrial hazard for zoo workers and primate researchers).

b) There are reports that people have been refused HIV medications on the same grounds, especially earlier in the AIDS crisis.

c) There are reliable reports that women have been refused all medications, including antibiotics, who have gotten prescriptions at women's clinics that are believed to perform abortion services.  

Sadly, the "refusal despite endangerment of life" has its own precedent with birth control--as the most common non-contraceptive reason for use of the birth control pill is management of polycystic ovary disease, which can lead to fatal consequences (including cyst ruptures, diabetes, and severe obesity) if untreated.

by dogemperor on Tue May 02, 2006 at 05:45:11 PM EST

There are reliable reports that women have been refused all medications, including antibiotics, who have gotten prescriptions at women's clinics that are believed to perform abortion services.

And unfortunately, this is nothing new. A colleague in Louisiana related several years ago that a Wal-Mart pharmacist in the northern part of the state had refused to dispense doxycycline to one of their patients after seeing the clinic's name at the top of the prescription form.

But now, with the support of anti-choice organizations and politicians, such rogue pharmacists are becoming bolder, and asserting nonexistent "rights" that supposedly supersede the explicit legal entitlement that a patient has to a properly prescribed and medically necessary drug.

The public spokesman for a pharmacy chain like Walgreens can get away with characterizing refusal incidents as "rare" only because most women feel so humiliated that they don't file complaints.

by moiv on Tue May 02, 2006 at 09:58:35 PM EST
Parent



The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, advocates a faith-based commitment to sexual and reproductive rights,, including access to voluntary contraception, abortion and HIV/STD prevention and treatment. Measures which limit women's access are punitive and do nothing to promote moral decision making. When there is a conflict between the conscience of the provider and the woman, the institution delivering the services has an obligation to assure that the woman's conscience and decision will be respected and that she has access to reproductive health care, either directly or through referral.

For more information, visit Rev. Haffner's blog at http://debrahaffner.blogspot.com or The Religious Institute's homepage at www.religiousinstitute.org

by Religious Institute on Wed May 03, 2006 at 01:49:39 AM EST

is the best. She just plain rocks.

Thanks for posting the link.

by moiv on Wed May 03, 2006 at 02:37:46 AM EST
Parent

Thank you so much for your supportive comment.  If you go to my blog, you'll see it was a bad day yesterday for "hate blog comments", so I especially appreciated it.  You also did a great job on this article.  

I'm wondering if you could add the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing to the list of "Resources" on the right hand side of the page as well as my blog, "Sexuality and Religion: What's the Connection" at http://debrahaffner.blogspot.com  Or could you tell us who else to approach to do so?

Keep up the great work.

Rev. Debra

by Religious Institute on Thu May 04, 2006 at 04:51:05 PM EST
Parent

I've forwarded your request to site admin. :)

by moiv on Fri May 05, 2006 at 09:50:04 PM EST
Parent




Thanks to librarylil I got a link to this site...

Your writings always have kept me informed and directed...glad I found you again Moiv! I'll check in regularly.

by SallyCat on Mon May 08, 2006 at 01:06:40 PM EST



WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (4 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (0 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (6 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (0 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (6 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (6 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (7 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (21 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (5 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (8 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (5 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (3 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (2 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (7 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (2 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (3 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.