Our own private Idaho problem

The next state to have pharmacist refusal on its conscience?

Published April 1, 2009 2:56PM (EDT)

Last year at this time, a Broadsheet April Fool's headline might have read something like, "President Rescinds Gag Rule" or "President Supports Fair Pay" or "First Lady's Toned Arms Are Debated." Baw haw! Like that would ever happen! What is this, the Onion? Good one, ladies.

So yes, it's a different world this year. But for many reasons, of course, we have not achieved total Obamatopia. The states, for one thing, are continuing to fool around with women's reproductive rights. "Personhood" bills, ultrasound laws, parental notification requirements, (Hi, Gov. Palin!) -- and oh, remember pharmacist refusals? Idaho just weighed in on that one, as RHReality Check reports. There, the House has voted 48-21 to allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense birth control prescriptions based on religious or moral objections suggesting that perhaps one should have chosen a different career path; the bill (PDF) is headed for the state Senate.

According to Idaho's pharmacy board director, pharmacists there can already refuse to fill prescriptions. This bill further clarifies and codifies that right, given that, we can thus assume, legislators had already taken care of everything else on their collective desks.

Before you make a "Well, it's Idaho" joke, remember: Yes, Idaho is rural.  That means, for one thing, if your pharmacist in Challis can withhold your Plan B (and is not required to get a colleague to do the deed), you might have to get yourself all the way to Clayton, on your quickly disappearing lunch break. And yes, even though Plan B should be available over the counter in the first place, that doesn't mean it's in stock. Or that they'd sell it in the first place.  Or that Plan B is the only thing they could refuse. Meanwhile (PDF), four states already have "conscience" laws explicitly allowing pharmacists the right of refusal; five others have broad refusal laws a pharmacist could invoke. No matter where this goes, what's happening in Idaho and elsewhere should serve as reminders that if we slip into complacency, then we're the fools.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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