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Jewish World Review March 10, 2000 /3 Adar II, 5760

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Pharmacist questions definition of 'contraception' -- A PHARMACIST in Ohio sent me an ad from Planned Parenthood that is circulating in his area. It shows a woman, with shadings over her face to represent prison bars, with the familiar Rx sign reflected on the wall behind her. The gist of the text is that pharmacists who refuse to fill a prescription for the so-called morning-after pill are "locking down" women's rights.

At first glance, the sight of this pathetic-looking girl made me angry. We are to believe this girl is looking pathetic because she is afraid she is pregnant. That's her pharmacist's problem? I don't think so.

But Planned Parenthood thinks so. The problem here is not caused by irresponsible sex. It's caused by evil pharmacists who won't fill this poor girl's prescription for "emergency contraception." According to the ad, "emergency contraception is safe and effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy within 72 hours after intercourse. Denying, or even delaying, women's access to it will result in millions of unplanned pregnancies and hundreds of thousands of abortions. Allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense a particular class of drugs is unconscionable ... and sets a dangerous precedent. It's time for the voices of reason to be heard."

"The voices of reason"? Is it unreasonable to assume that avoiding irresponsible sex is a great way to avoid getting pregnant? Presumably, no pharmacist could be blamed for that. And how about those "hundreds of thousands of abortions"? Is it unreasonable to assume that if pregnant women don't want to raise their children, they can carry them to term and put them up for adoption? There are probably hundreds of thousands of childless couples out here waiting for those unwanted children.

I'll let pharmacist Doug from Ohio speak to the issue of what's "unconscionable":

"It's been said that for bad things to happen, good people need to do nothing. I must do something. As a practicing pharmacist, I am alarmed regarding the issue raised by the enclosed Planned Parenthood ad, printed in a recent national ladies magazine. In politics, it is common to parse words and redefine those words that interfere with desired policy. However, to allow outside political forces to redefine medical terms and to have the medical communities repeat and accept this new definition -- that's what's dangerous. This ad is full of carefully worded sentences that are meant to mislead and deceive the unsuspecting public.

"Contraception is medically defined as preventing conception, not preventing pregnancy. An emergency contraceptive agent can indeed sometimes prevent conception by a mild spermicidal effect. However, its primary mechanism of action is preventing implantation of a fertilized egg, which by definition means conception has already occurred. The emergency contraceptive agent is not a contraceptive agent at all. It must be classified as an abortafacient."

According to the Food and Drug Administration, emergency contraception pills act in a number of ways -- by "delaying or inhibiting ovulation, and/or altering tubal transport of the sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation)."

Doug's letter continues: "(Planned Parenthood's) ad states the pharmacist doesn't want you to have the medication. That's not true. I just do not want to be involved in dispensing this to a patient, especially an uninformed, misled patient. The ad also says that pharmacists refusing to dispense these pills will result in hundreds of thousands of abortions. In fact, by dispensing these pills, (pharmacists) would be responsible for performing hundreds of thousands of abortions. I do not want to be involved in the abortion business. I want my freedom to choose not to participate.

"Two things should come from all of this: 1) Mandatory full disclosure to the patient regarding the mechanism of action of these agents, which is the only way to allow informed freedom to choose, and 2) pharmacists retain freedom to choose to or not to participate with early-term abortions."

Well, No. 1 sure won't happen. Planned Parenthood doesn't really want full disclosure on abortions -- early or late. The organization has resolutely opposed all legislative efforts to assure that women seeking abortions are given the facts about the procedure itself and the potential physical and psychological ramifications of undergoing abortions.

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