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Hugs, Not Drugs
Excellent editorial in the New York Times deriding the fundamentalist pharmacists who refuse to give women their "lawfully prescribed" birth control pills:

Scattered reports suggest that a growing number of pharmacists around the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for contraceptives or morning-after birth control pills because of moral or religious objections. Although the refusals are cast as important matters of conscience for self-described "pro-life" pharmacists, they have the pernicious effect of delaying, and sometimes even denying, a woman's access to medications that may be urgently needed. This is an intolerable abuse of power by pharmacists who have no business forcing their own moral or ethical views onto customers who may not share them. Any pharmacist who cannot dispense medicines lawfully prescribed by a doctor should find another line of work.

No biggie, some will say; women can just drag their asses from pharmacy to pharmacy to pharmacy until they find a pharmacist who isn't a wild-eyed religious nut:

In rural areas there may not be another pharmacy nearby, so customers who are turned away may go without the medication or waste time finding another pharmacy. In the case of the morning-after pills, which work best in the first 12 to 24 hours after a sexual encounter, delay could render the treatment ineffective. Indeed, pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills are inadvertently strengthening the case for providing them as nonprescription medicines on the open shelves. Such availability would allow women to get the pills promptly without going first to a doctor and then to a potentially obstructionist pharmacist.

...Which is exactly how birth control pills should be available. I mean, come on, why are they locked away like the crown jewels? Hmm, perhaps because we (and I mean, the "we" that includes excessive influence from people with irrational belief in god and all the trimmings) aren't really all that interested in preventing abortion? Because "we" really want to see women become the baby pods "god" meant them to be?

Posted by aalkon at April 3, 2005 7:03 AM

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It may be reasonable for emergency contraception to be available over-the-counter. It is only (theoretically) used rarely, which limits possible adverse reactions. On the other hand, there are good reasons for other hormonal birth control to be prescription-only. A person taking birth control is at increased risk for life-threatening blood clots, especially if they smoke. They are also at risk for hypertension. Establishing a relationship with a prescriber is a good way to monitor and treat these conditions. Requiring regular exams to obtain these medications also gives patients the opportunity to be screened for diseases they otherwise would not be tested for. Anyone you know inclined to get a regular PAP smear if they don't have to? My intent is not to be critical, but to point out there are good reasons for hormonal birth control to be prescription-only. Most of the time I find your blog interesting. And reasonable, so I hope you find this helpful.
As for the other part of the issue, refusal to fill prescriptions, I agree. I am a pharmacist (did you guess?) and find it disgusting that other pharmacists feel compelled to force their beliefs on others while not being responsible for their actions. I doubt the pharmacists refusing prescriptions would be interesting in adopting all the children that result from the refusals they personally commit.

Posted by: Alison at April 3, 2005 7:59 AM

Very good point about the adoptions, Alison...and I see your point on keeping these medications prescription, but, on the other hand, I think it's a bit crazy that we have to force people to be responsible adults. What's next, prescription only lines at McDonald's. I wonder, (L'Amerloque? Frania? Do you know?) If birth control pills in France are prescription or non. (I know morning-after pills are non-prescription because I stock up on them when I'm there -- and sunblock, since our FDA so thoughtfully protects us from truly protecting ourselves from the sun.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 3, 2005 9:29 AM

RE your question addressed to L'Amerloque & Frania enquiring "if birth control pills in France are prescription or non.” They are delivered with prescription for the reasons explained above by Alison. Note that a doctor’s prescription opens the way to reimbursement by insurance. As for the “morning after pill” or “contraception d’urgence” Tétragynon° is delivered with prescription & NorLevo° without.

My curiosity made me look up everything I could find on contraception in France since the beginning of the 19th century. Le sujet est vaste & needs months of research! On sexual relations, the Napoleon Code (1810) states they are legal between consenting partners aged …15 or over for heterosexuals & 18 or over for homosexuals. Unfortunately, 19th century and its Victorian Puritanism tried to put a stop to that quasi “liberté sexuelle” and, at some point, the age limit was raised to 21. But what finally put the death sentence on sexual freedom came at the end of WWI after millions of Frenchmen were killed during the war. In July 1920, an anti-abortion law was put into effect whereas abortion was qualified a crime as serious as murder. The Vichy government in 1942-1943 made the law even harsher & abortion became a crime against the nation as grave as treason. So you can imagine the battle French women had to face to gain the sexual freedom they won in 1975 (Loi Veil) with the right to abort. The law was amended several times, always in favor of women, and now contraception, including birth planning, pill (before & after) & abortion are reimbursed (65%) by French national medical insurance "Sécurité Sociale”.

The link below treats of today’s dangers to the rights won by French women and the new battle beginning because of the intervention of religious fundamentalists.

Frania W.

Posted by: Frania W. at April 3, 2005 2:35 PM

P.S. Parental consent or knowledge is not necessary for delivery of birth control prescription to teenage girls, even the morning after pill.

Posted by: Frania W. at April 3, 2005 2:41 PM

Thanks so much, Frania -- for the research and the link to the article. Encore, je le prends à lire a la classe de Français cette semaine.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 3, 2005 2:50 PM

I hate the idea that the Emergency Contraception Pill is only available via a doctor or even Planned Parenthood. My Parenthood clinic is closed on the weekends, and getting a hold of a doctor on a Saturday? Yeah, that's a dream! There ought to be a way you can access these things in emergency situations, because the medical community only seems to operate on a 9 to 5 schedule any more.

Posted by: CornerDemon at April 3, 2005 6:43 PM

What's the deal with french sunblock? How is it different from domestic?

Posted by: Charlie at April 3, 2005 7:56 PM

Corner Demon,

Unless you are in a rape situation, in which case you run to the hospital, why not try... abstinence on weekends & holy days?

Frania W.

Posted by: Frania W. at April 3, 2005 10:56 PM

I only came upon your site a couple of days ago, so I am still catching up. What I love about your blogs is that they inform me about things I'd be more comfortable not being aware of.
Pharmacists playing "daddy". Wonderful. I just love the thought of my possible future daughters having fewer personal freedoms than I've known. We seem to be moving rapidly backwards, and it scares the crap out of me.
Thanks for writing about things that scare me - I'd rather be frightened than ignorant.

Posted by: Kimberly at April 4, 2005 1:28 AM

Thanks, Kimberly -- that means a lot.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 4, 2005 2:23 AM

Hi Kimberly !

Amy's blog is a place to be, there's no doubt about that. (smile)


Posted by: L'Amerloque at April 7, 2005 10:34 AM

I'm the same as Kimberly, I just found your site and I find it inspirational. Considering that I'm related to and surrounded by an endless supply of fundamentalists...every family reunion is hell.
Anyways, in order for me to get birth control (which my family refused to allow my doctor to prescribe me so I had to wait until I was 18...and yes they managed that one because they knew my doctor personally and she was just as god-fearing anti-birth control impose-my-ideals-on-others as they are) I went through my school so it wouldn't turn up on my mom's insurance (which I'm still on, cut the poor college student some slack!). The school, in order to give me free birth control made me:
1)Register with the state (its confidential but still...I trust my government as far as I can throw their fat, beaurocratic asses)
2) Attend a two hour meeting explaining birth control (yes I went to health class from 4th grade through 9th, and yet they still think I didn't listen)
3) Have a pap smear
4) Have a meeting with my school pharmacist where he repeated everything said from the two hour meeting.
Every year I have to reregister with the state to keep this up. If my pharmacist refused to refil on moral grounds, after all I've done to get these stupid little pills, I think I'd give him a black eye. Teenagers aren't stupid, people portray them as idiots who would use the morning after pill as regular birth control so they should be "monitored".
My roomate had the condom break during sex with her boyfriend. She doesn't take birth control because she's diabetic and in her case it makes her blood sugar very low (she was on it for a few months before it became to hard for her to manage). They had to bump some other, poor person off of the doctor's schedule to take her in to give her the 'script. If it was over the counter my VERY responsible roomie could have gotten it quickly, and without ruining someone else's appointment.
It's simple. Put clear instructions in the box with the pill, and trust that not everyone is an idiotic monkey.

Posted by: Tina at October 21, 2007 10:29 PM

Thanks, Tina. Absolutely right.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 22, 2007 12:38 AM

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