Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Massachusetts pharmacies may soon get to dispense the morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, even though the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved it for over-the-counter sales. Unlike other states considering this deal, which would require training, certification and an ongoing partnership with a doctor, Massachusetts would add a requirement: Hospitals have to tell rape victims Plan B is an option.

Colorado just went through a vote on this, with the House approving it 46-19 and Senate approving it 22-13. The governor, a Catholic named Bill Owens, vetoed it. The House can override the veto; the Senate is two votes short.

The governor’s reason for the veto? That Catholic hospitals would be obliged to provide such information, although their individual employees would not. The quote:

It is one of the central tenets of a free society that individuals and institutions should not be coerced by government to engage in activities that violate their moral or religious beliefs. While this bill did offer health care professionals the right to decline to offer emergency contraception due to religious or moral beliefs, it did not offer those same protections to health care institutions. This is wrong. And it is unconstitutional.

Interestingly, religious pressure has cut funding to any number of secular institutions and organizations that want to tell clients and customers about contraception and abortion options, which means the government has been in the position (during the Reagan and both Bush administrations) of “coercion” based on moral and religious beliefs — not to be too obvious, but exactly what Owens is opposing. Starting in 1984, pausing during the Clinton years and continuing again through today, all U.S. dollars were cut from overseas health organization budgets if abortion was provided, suggested or even discussed, and it’s hard to argue that abortion-rights and contraception supporters aren’t engaged on a moral level.

The separation of church and state provided for in the U.S. Constitution is to protect religion from government, yes, but Owens and his ilk ignore at will the fact (the very obvious fact) that it is also intended to protect government from religion. Hundreds of years of history and precedent support this view.

It’d almost be worth it to somehow give Owens a Plan B exemption for religious institutions — if he’d just go on record, and back it with votes and lobbying efforts, supporting abortion and contraception rights for nonreligious institutions.

And it’ll be interesting to see how this debate plays in Massachusetts, which has religious nuts of its own, albeit fewer and farther between, and a governor who’ll stoop to anything in pursuit of the far-right’s votes in 2008.

1 comment:

Brian Wanamaker said...

Odd how someone's ideology can provide an excuse for them to maintain a client's ignorance about available options. It's not as though the would-be caregiver is doing anything other than dispensing information, and leaving the decision to the patient. The concept that a person could choose to simply not tell a client about a method of addressing their problem, is inexcusable.