Friday, June 22, 2007

The Pro-Life Pharmacist Eradication Bill of 2007

This would be a better title for the recently introduced "Access to Birth Control Act." The bill would create a federal law for the purpose of punishing pharmacies for their moral objection to dispensing the "morning after pill" or "Plan B." Detailing all of the distortions, misconceptions, and terrible policy ideas in this bill would make for a very lengthy post for a Friday afternoon, so I'll just highlight two for now.

1. The Most Likely Effect of the Bill, Should it Become Law, Would be to DECREASE Access to Birth Control: This bill requires pharmacies that sell contraceptives to sell contraceptives. Sec. 249's provisions apply and require the pharmacy to fill a prescription only if a customer requests a contraceptive that is in stock or that the pharmacy does not have in stock IF "the pharmacy in the normal course of business stocks contraception." You're probably asking yourself, "O.K., then Mattox, what's your beef?" Here's the trick. "contraception" = "any drug or device approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent pregnancy." Sec. 249(f)(1). This includes both your standard birth control pills AND "Plan B." If a small family pharmacy has made the decision to sell regular birth control pills, but to draw the line at selling "Plan B" it would violate this Act.

Many pharmacies draw exactly this distinction. They do not have an ethical or religious objection to dispensing regular birth control pills since their primary means of action is to prevent the fertilization of the egg. But they DO object to dispensing "Plan B" because these medications are much more likely to act by stopping the already fertilized and growing embryo (which many believe is the beginning of life) from implanting in the womb and receiving the nutrients and oxygen it needs from the mother to survive.

By treating both Plan B and birth control pills together as "contraceptives" (because they're both FDA approved), the bill would require any pharmacy that has drawn this ethical line and therefore sells only birth control pills to also sell Plan B. But if a pharmacy does not sell birth control pills then it is not (on my reading) required by the bill to also sell Plan B. Many conscientious pro-life pharmacies presented with this compelled participation with the destruction of a human embryo can be expected to simply choose to eschew birth control pills altogether. Thus, the bill would not even accomplish its stated - and dubious - purpose of increasing access to birth control. Rather than increasing access to the "morning after pill," the far more likely result of this bill would be to diminish the number of pharmacies that sell standard birth control pills - or for the reasons below even the number of pharmacies and pharmacists altogether.

2. The Bill Would Permit Lawsuits for Civil and Punitive Damages by Women "Aggrieved" by a Single Pharmacist's Exercise of His Conscience -- The bill's "Enforcement" section provides civil penalties of up to a HALF MILLION dollars against pharmacies that do not carry Plan B. What's more, the bill would also authorize private rights of action (READ: Cases for the ACLU) to compel compliance - allowing for "actual and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and a reasonable attorney's fee and cost." Sec. 249(e)(2). There is a 5 year statute of limitations on such claims, much longer than the typical 2 year SOL on civil rights claims. Sec. 249(e)(3). It is not a stretch to think that if this bill were law, pro-life pharmacies could be dragged through inordinantly expensive litigation, forced to pay for a woman's surgical abortion or even for the "wrongful life" of her child. They could also be subject to punitive damages and required to pay the attorneys fees of ACLU lawyers because of their criminal exercise of their conscience and the decision they have made to not sell Plan B.

Again, facing this possibility, why would a pro-life individual want to enter the pharmacy profession at all? Let me suggest that this is exactly the real object of this bill and its chief supporters. In the economy of the ACLU and NARAL, there simply is no room for dissent and difference of opinion when it comes to abortion and matters of "reproductive choice." Anyone who does not agree with their views about the morality of abortion are simply unwelcome in the medical profession. The presence of pro-life individuals in the medical professions and their voices for the unborn are an unfortunate menace that the abortion lobby would prefer to eliminate. This bill is a tremendous step in that direction.

1 Comment:

Nathanael said...

It is worth noting that such a line between Plan B and standard hormonal birth control is largely artificial. Emergency contraceptives like Plan B use the same hormones and have the same methods of action as normal birth control pills. Emergency contraception is just an especially large dose of the same.

All hormonal birth control, be it the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the mini-pill, or Plan B, acts by preventing ovulation, preventing fertilization by thickening the cervical mucus, or by preventing the implantation of a human embryo into the uterus by thinning the endometrium, thereby causing the death of the embryo.

Plan B probably functions in the final method more often than other forms of hormonal birth control, but this is a difference of degree, not of kind.