The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 July 2004

Getting ova

"Limiting access to the Pill," says this piece in Prevention, "threatens a basic aspect of women's health care."

(And please note that while there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of small-p pills, there is only one Pill.)

The piece is called "Access Denied," and you know it's serious, because Planned Parenthood is involved and because there's a hint of some shadowy anti-abortion cabal Out There Somewhere.

Dawn Eden thinks the piece, written by Caroline Bollinger, is ridden with paranoia:

Bollinger's fearmongering is based upon the presumption that the professionals who refuse to prescribe or dispense birth-control pills are unreasonable people. Like so many secular reporters covering religious topics, she assumes that no intelligent, feeling human being would believe that life begins at conception. One senses in her article the liberal paranoia that President Bush and his appointees, if given the chance, would turn America into an evangelical-Christian theocracy.

But I don't believe that Christians stop working their brains when they start working their faith. I believe that the very same person who would have the faith and courage to take a principled stand on a life issue, would also have the reason to see when it's fair to make an exception.

Even if one day I went to the drugstore and the pharmacist refused to fill my prescription, I still can't imagine being unable to find a pharmacist who would fill it. When one has faith in the reasonable nature of people in general, one does not fear the opinions of a few. The First Amendment, which allows Americans to remain faithful to their religion in the workplace, assures that this nation will not be a theocracy, because it protects the diversity of citizens' opinions and faiths.

The only thing I'd quibble with is in the second paragraph I quoted. I don't think it's implausible that our theoretical pharmacist could accept the possibility of an exception; however, since prescriptions don't necessarily contain the details of why a particular drug is being prescribed, the pharmacist may not have the information needed to make that sort of judgment call.

As for a national movement to outlaw oral contraceptives in general, don't expect it to go anywhere until there's a lot more research on the topic. For the moment, scientists are still perplexed as to how the darn things work in the first place; gauging potential side effects is another matter entirely.

And one larger question looms: Will people turn away from pharmacy as a career if they feel it presents them with an increasing number of moral or ethical questions?

Posted at 7:53 AM to Life and/or Death

TrackBacks if any:

"For the moment, scientists are still perplexed as to how the darn things work in the first place; [...]"

Huh?!? The way BC pills work is endo 101 stuff, nothing perplexing about it at all.

"[...] gauging potential side effects is another matter entirely."

Ah, now therein lies the rub. Increased risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), increased risk of ischemic stroke (especially with 3Gs), and possible increased risk of breast and reproductive tract cancers, just for starters. Mind you, none of those risk increases are huge (the stroke risk increase was double with 3Gs, if I remember correctly, but it only was like 1:10,000 to begin with), but doctors were pulling women off non-BC 'mones left and right because of those very same risks.


Posted by: Myria at 5:41 PM on 1 July 2004

These things played hell with my ex-wife's structural integrity; eventually, following the Path of Least Resistance, she went off the drugs and I underwent a small surgical procedure, which made a vas deferens (sorry) in her health.

In between these events — well, he's twenty-three this weekend.

Posted by: CGHill at 6:22 PM on 1 July 2004

Will people turn away from pharmacy as a career if they feel it presents them with an increasing number of moral or ethical questions?

I don't know, but I know that people will stop shopping at pharmacies where they feel the people behind the counter are in the habit of weighing their souls and passing moral judgements.

Posted by: Phil at 8:57 PM on 1 July 2004

Dawn's argument concerning finding another pharmacy, by the way, is predicated on being located in an area where there are plenty of a) gynecologists or GPs, and b) pharmacies. Not everyone lives in Los Angeles. Some women live in towns where the next doctor who can or will prescribe an oral contraceptive is 50 or more miles away. If their doctor suddenly decides not to renew the prescription, they're more than "mildly inconvenienced."

It's also awfully dismissive of women who might be in monogamous -- even married -- sexual relationships who nevertheless are taking steps not to conceive children they don't want, can't afford to raise, or whatever. You know, that "personal responsbility" thing that the moralists are usually accusing people of not having enough of? Here are some women trying to exercise some, rather than just rolling the dice, and along comes a doctor or pharmacist who knows better than them what's good for them -- they're religious after all, so they've got this "what's good for you" stuff nailed, yo! -- and suddenly they're SOL. Super.

By the way, there is no "moment of conception." It's a process, not a discrete event.

Posted by: Phil at 9:09 PM on 1 July 2004

I would support a doctor who refuses to prescribe the Pill; I would condemn a pharmacist who refuses to fill such a prescription, unless he is aware of a health-related reason to do so. While pharmacists have medical training, they are not doctors, and should not be second-guessing the doctor.

I support use of the pill because it prevents conception. It beats the hell out of the alternative.

Posted by: timekeeper at 12:12 AM on 2 July 2004

Sorry for the unnecessarily hostile tone of my second post, above. It was late, I've been in a pissy mood, and I haven't been articulating myself well lately. Maybe it's time to go back on the meds.

Posted by: Phil at 8:16 AM on 2 July 2004