More on "Moral Refusal" and women
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Mon May 08, 2006 at 11:33:14 AM EST
(This is a repost of an article I have previously posted in my diary here, which contains original comments.)

Of particular interest is a new article in the (Seattle) Stranger which involves yet another case of "moral refusal" involving pharmacists, the first time a women's clinic is filing malpractice claims to protect the rights of their patients to receive care...and some ugly confirmation of trends that I've noted in two previous articles in this series.

I noted in two previous articles--"Every Zygote is Sacred", or "Can I have my birth control, already?" and "Moral Refusal" extends to healthcare in general--on how the increasing use of "conscience clauses" by pharmacists and other professionals puts not only women obtaining "The Pill" and Plan B at risk, but potentially all medical aid and care for certain populations (people who have to take drugs of which one medical indication is for STDs, HIV patients, and LGBT people period).

The Stranger article gives disturbing confirmation of a trend wherein dominionist medical care professionals are now starting to refuse to give even lifesaving, medically indicated drugs which cannot be used to induce abortion because a women's clinic was involved somewhere in the process:

Cedar River Clinics, a women's health and abortion provider with facilities in Renton, Tacoma, and Yakima, filed a complaint with the Washington State Department of Health this week alleging three instances where pharmacists raising moral objections refused to fill prescriptions for Cedar River clients. The complaint includes one incident at the Swedish Medical Center outpatient pharmacy in Seattle. According to the complaint, someone at the Swedish pharmacy said she was "morally unable" to fill a Cedar River patient's prescription for abortion-related antibiotics. Cedar River's complaint quotes its Renton clinic manager's May 17, 2005, e-mail account: "Today, one of our clients asked us to call in her prescription... to Swedish outpatient pharmacy. [We] called the prescription in... and spoke with an efficient staff person who took down the prescription. A few minutes later, this pharmacy person called us back and told us she had found out who we were and she morally was unable to fill the prescription." (Cedar River thinks their client eventually got her prescription filled.)

Cedar River's complaint, dated April 10, summarizes: "In each of the situations, we believe the pharmacist displayed behavior that was biased, unprofessional, and unethical. We are concerned that this type of poor treatment may be becoming a trend."



Yes, you read that right.  The patient was refused--not Plan B, not "the pill", not Zovirax--but antibiotics designed to prevent a septic abortion.

The article continues:

The complaint also includes an incident from November 2005 in Yakima, in which a pharmacist at a Safeway reportedly refused to fill a Cedar River patient's prescription for pregnancy-related vitamins. The pharmacist reportedly asked the customer why she had gone to Cedar River Clinics and then told the patient she "didn't need them if she wasn't pregnant."


Yes, a dominionist pharmacist assumed a woman who went to a women's clinic went there to have an abortion and refused her medically indicated prenatal support on that basis alone.  (The old yarn telling people to "assume" on the basis it "makes an ass out of U and me" comes to mind.)

No matter that a lot of poor women go to those clinics NOT to have abortions but to have prenatal checkups to make sure the babies they plan to bring into the world have the best start.

 
In fact, in many cases, refusal to give them antibiotics can prevent them from ever having babies--non-abortion indications for antibiotics include treatment of some STDs (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea) which can destroy fertility as well as non-STD, non-abortion related uterine infections that can prevent women from becoming pregnant.  There's also at least one indication that antibiotic treatment is lifesaving that doesn't involve abortions at all--syphilis is curable if caught in the early stages with antibiotics, but if untreated leads to insanity, disfigurement and eventual death.

The article notes this is such a severe problem in Washington State that the state pharmacy board is considering dropping the whole concept of "conscience clauses":

Next week, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy (WSBP) will begin deliberating on rules that will determine whether pharmacists can cite "conscientious, moral, or religious reasons" in refusing to fill prescriptions for drugs like Plan B, the well-known emergency contraception pill. The board hopes to have rules in place as early as this summer.

The seven-member board, appointed by the governor, issues pharmacist licenses and regulates pharmacists statewide. Obviously, if the board allows individual pharmacists to withhold medication on moral grounds, it will have implications beyond a woman's access to things like Plan B, antibiotics, or vitamins. For example, self-righteous pharmacists could prevent a woman from getting birth control pills if she couldn't supply a marriage license; prevent a recovering alcoholic from getting Antabuse; or stop someone from getting an AIDS cocktail.



This is not just an idle worry--dominionist pharmacists have refused to dispense "the Pill" at all to women (because of the claims in the "pro-life" community that "the pill" and any other drug or device that potentially prevents implantation is an abortifacient--claiming pregnancy starts at fertilisation rather than implantation) and at the beginning of the HIV crisis there were pharmacists who were refusing to dispense the drug cocktails necessary for treatment.  (In fact, at least one state senator from Alabama--Hank Erwin, a radio-preacher -cum-politician who has connections with Roy Moore and even claimed that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution--has pushed for legislation mandating labels on all HIV medication admonishing users to practice a "more responsible lifestyle".

The usual players seem to be involved in this case fighting against this--the Alliance Defense Fund (not entirely surprising) is fighting for "conscience clauses" and their expansion, whilst the Northwest Women's Law Center is filing briefs showing a pattern where people are refused care:

"Pharmacists should not be able to elevate their personal beliefs over the needs of the patient," says Amy Luftig, deputy director of public policy at Planned Parenthood Network of Washington. Luftig offered several anecdotes of refusal stories--including one of a young couple seeking emergency contraception in the Central District who were lectured by the pharmacist about sex--but says most women are too embarrassed or stigmatized to go public with a complaint like the one Cedar River filed on behalf of its clients. (Indeed, until this week, pharmacy board director Steven Saxe says, the board had not received any complaints.) Luftig says Planned Parenthood is now posting signs in its clinics asking people for their refusal stories.



Display:
Are misnamed, and a pharmacist should know that.  They're taken before pregnancy by women trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and after it by women who are breastfeeding.  Refusing them on the grounds that you don't need them if you're not pregnant is ignorant as well as unprofessional.

by velvetpage on Sun Jun 18, 2006 at 08:10:59 AM EST


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