Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 30, 2005
By: Amy Sullivan

NO PILLS FOR YOU!....Kevin blogged about the "Pharmacists' Rights" movement briefly yesterday and Ed Kilgore has a very funny post on the issue that is worth your time. But I want to pull back for a moment to ask whether there is any "there" there to this UPROAR/CONTROVERSY/CULTURAL WAR TO END ALL WARS.

The Washington Post says there is, devoting a frontpage article to the issue on Monday, declaring: "Pharmacists' Rights at Front of New Debate." But let's look closer. "Some pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control..." "The trend has opend a new front in the nation's battle over reproductive rights..." Says Steven Aden of the Christian Legal Society, "More and more pharmacists are becoming aware of their right to conscientiously refuse..." [emphasis mine]

Hmm. What kind of a sample are we talking about here? Is a trend thousands of pharmacists? Hundreds? Even a few dozen? Halfway through the piece, reporter Rob Stein admits that "no one knows exactly how often [this] is happening" but notes that cases have been reported in ten states.

Never you mind whether this is a real problem or a trumped-up political issue on both sides, though, because, as we are told in melodramatic fashion: "Pharmacists often risk dismissal or other disciplinary action to stand up for their beliefs, while shaken teenage girls and women desperately call their doctors, frequently late at night, after being turned away by sometimes-lecturing men and women in white coats."

My. I'm willing to believe that there are a few pharmacists around the country who refuse to dispense birth control (although if they do, that refusal had better be blanket and not on a case-by-case "hmm...I don't think you have a good enough reason" basis) and that there are a few women who have been denied access to birth control because of it. But unless someone can prove to me that this is more than just a few anecdotes on each side (a la the equally trumped-up Partial-Birth controversy), I'm not convinced that this is anything more than an uproar in search of a problem.

It seems to me that instead of playing into the idea that this is a widespread problem, opponents of the "Pharmacists' Rights" people should expose the fact that outright opposition to birth control is a pretty radical, minority view. While Americans are becoming more evenly split about when and how to allow abortion, they aren't confused about birth control--the latest numbers I've found (and if you have more recent ones, please send them along) are from Celinda Lake in the 1990s, who found that support for birth control among Catholic Americans was in the high eighties.

The best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If a small group stands in the way of that effort, they're the ones who will be responsible for increased abortion rates around the country. That's your message.

Amy Sullivan 4:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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