Your Fee-Fees End Where My Body Begins

by Shaker Laurakeet, who's had it about up to here today.

I've only lived in Illinois for about seven years now, but in that time I've seen women's reproductive rights go through some highs and lows. Now, thanks to Judge John Belz, I've seen a good statute go out the window.

On April 5, 2011, Judge John Belz of the Sangamon County Circuit Court ruled that pharmacists are allowed to choose when they want to do the job they signed up for, at least when it comes to women's ability to control their reproductive autonomy.

This lawsuit was in response to then-Gov. Blagojevich's 2005 emergency order that requires pharmacists to stock and quickly fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, aka the morning-after pill.*

What these pharmacists should be saying is "my rights end where yours begin" (MREWYB). At least, that's how it's supposed to work.

The suit against Illinois came from two anti-choice pharmacists who own pharmacies and who, despite their training, seem to know jack shit about the reproductive system. They decided that they didn't want to sell emergency contraception because ABORTION and CONSCIENCE.

The pharmacists say EC drugs, like Plan B and ella, are tantamount to abortion because the hormone progestin thins the lining of the uterine wall, which could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. This is also how anti-choicers argue that all hormonal contraceptives are abortifacents. Pregnancy is defined biologically as occurring once an embryo is implanted in the uterus. Emergency contraception will work up to three or five days after sex, depending on the exact drug, but it will do nothing if the person is already pregnant. Planned Parenthood has more information and FAQs about EC.

The best (i.e. worst) part? Since 2006, Plan B One-Step and Next Choice have been available without a prescription. You must be able to prove you are at least 17 and you have to ask a pharmacist to hand it to you, as it's kept behind the counter, but that's it. So, these pharmacists are unwilling to HAND YOU A BOX. It hurts their fee-fees.

But your fee-fees end where my body begins.

In his decision, Judge Belz wrote that the Illinois Attorney General provided "no evidence of a single person who ever was unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection. … Nor did the government provide any evidence that anyone was having difficulties finding willing sellers of over-the-counter Plan B, either at pharmacies or over the Internet."

This contrasts sharply with what advocates witnessed in 2005 when this statute took effect. One woman reported that an Osco Drug in Chicago wouldn't fill her prescription. (I can't seem to find out if this is one of the pharmacies owned by the assholes in question, but I wouldn't be surprised.) If the state simply couldn't find examples since the order went into effect, doesn't this just mean it was working? OH NO, SOMETHING IS WORKING, BREAK IT. (It's the Illinois way.)

According to the news stories, Judge Belz's decision also said that the state conceded that the health impact of overturning the statute "would be minimal." In what way? In the way that unintended pregnancy is a minimal life event? In the way that forces a woman to play pin-the-tail-on-the-pharmacy in order to secure an emergency medication to which she's got a legal right? In that knocking down a useful law that would guarantee access to basic, legal healthcare products won't have consequences beyond itself?

Attorney General Lisa Madigan says her office will appeal. For now, I can't find any teaspoon opportunities, but I'll keep my ear to the ground.


* It's worth noting that pharmacists do want to practice due diligence when distributing prescriptions. For example, after this statute originally went into effect in 2005, the American Pharmacists Association and others asked then-Governor Blagojevich to refine his emergency order to explain that filling emergency contraception prescriptions "without delay" would not interfere with pharmacists' ability to check for drug interactions, allergies, that sort of thing.

[Related Reading: On Conscience Clauses; HHS Rule Change Update.]

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