Friday, December 03, 2004

Birth Control Is Illegal

The above post title is not true -- yet. But if you are a woman in the United States, your access to birth control has been sharply curtailed, and your legal right to use birth control is in serious danger. Consider the following:

  • A growing number of pharmacists are using "refuse and refer" provisions in the pharmacy industry's code of ethics to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. Even worse, many of these pharmacists are so fanatically against birth control that they deliberately skip the "refer" part of the ethical code.
  • In Congress, right-wing Republicans tried to slip a "conscience clause" that would have expanded the right to refuse access to birth control to the entire health care industry. Democrats fought hard enough to get these Republicans to remove the provision, for now. But with Bush's election to a second term, measures like these are still very much on the agenda.
  • Legislation similar to the so-far shelved "conscience clause" is being discussed and debated in 13 states -- 22 separate legislative proposals in all. If passed, these new laws would restrict access to all family planning services, including contraceptives.
  • Pres. Bush removed contraceptive coverage for federal employees from his first budget. He also turned the family planning educational provisions in Title 10 of the Public Services Act into abstinence-only programs. This is in sharp contrast to his father, who was a strong advocate for birth control and family planning services while a member of the Texas congressional delegation. The first Pres. Bush was the one who championed the Public Services Act as a way to educate families about family planning.
  • The strong possibility of an opening on the Supreme Court during George W. Bush's second term creates a significant chance that whoever Bush appoints will be anti-family planning and anti-birth control as well as anti-abortion.

The bottom line: Women in this country can no longer take the availability of contraception for granted.

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