April 15, 2005
HB16: The biggest PLOB yet

There's been some mighty tough competition this session, but I'm going to nominate HB16 as the biggest PLOB of them all. That's the bill that would allow a pharmacist to refuse to sell birth control to an adult woman with a valid prescription from her doctor in the name of salving the pharmacist's conscience. (NOTE: It's actually about morning-after contraception. See update below.) Pink Dome is there for the committee hearings.

I'm absolutely appalled at the idea that an adult could be denied access to a legal product at the whim of a stranger, but I have to ask, why are we stopping here? If this bill becomes law, would it mean that a Jehovah's Witness working at CVS could legally refuse to dispense any blood-related products? Would it mean that a Catholic working the deli counter at Randall's could legally refuse to sell you a steak on Fridays? Could a Wiccan working at Academy refuse to sell you hunting equipment? Where exactly would it end?

I have a personal reason for feeling so strongly about this. When my sister was a teenager, she had such bad menstrual cramps that she couldn't go to school during her period. The ultimate solution to ease the problem and let her live normally was the pill. Later, in her twenties, she stopped menstruating after she lost some weight and started exercising regularly. I called her on the phone while composing this post, and she said it was similar to what competitive gymnasts go through because they're so skinny. Had this condition continued, she might have begun menopause at a very early age. The only thing that worked to reverse the effect was taking the pill. I defy any so-called "Pharmacist for Life" to tell me that this was immoral of her.

(Side note: Naturally, her insurance did not cover the cost of the birth control pills. Despite a letter from her doctor explaining that they were for treatment of a medical problem and not for birth control, they refused to pay. As she said at the time, she could pay to get a period once a month or not have it at all for free. Such a fun choice, no?)

(Oh, and before anyone asks, no, my sister did not have an eating disorder. It's true that anorexia and bulimia sufferers are at risk of menstruation problems, but that was not the issue here.)

I don't want to create the impression that there's some kind of distinction between women who take the pill to treat a medical condition and the vast majority of women who take the pill for the traditional reason. My point is that it's none of any pharmacist's damn business why a woman is using a legal product for which she has a valid prescription from her doctor. I see no reason why some pharmacists should be granted a special right to impose their will on other people. If they're not capable of doing their jobs, they're perfectly free to find other work.

UPDATE: After reading this In the Pink post, I see that HB16 is about morning-after contraception, not the birth control pill. That doesn't make it any less bad an idea, nor does it mean that it couldn't be amended in the future to broaden the scope of legal pharmacist meddling. I have the same objections and for the same reasons.

UPDATE: 'stina tells her story.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 15, 2005 to That's our Lege | TrackBack

If there is a pharmacist in Houston that engages in this practice, I think the public should know that they may not receive healthcare services at that pharmacy.

I wonder if the truck drivers hauling medicine can refuse to ship based on "moral reasons".

Posted by: 'stina on April 15, 2005 5:16 PM

Point of order: not all Wiccans are anti-hunting. Some of us eat meat and wear leather shoes just like our Xtian friends!

Posted by: Vedhalwyn on April 15, 2005 11:30 PM