Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bill Owens: Governor, Doctor, Pharmacist, Priest, Everywoman

Governor Bill Owens of Colorado has recently vetoed two bills that would make emergency contraception (aka Plan B) more easily obtained by women who need it. One would have required all hospitals - including private and religiously-funded ones - to either provide EC or provide information about where to get it to victims of rape. The other would have made EC available over the counter, therefore delivering this time-dependent medication to patients faster.

These sound like pretty reasonable pieces of legislation, right? Getting medical care to women who need it, and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the meantime.

However, looking to his expertise in the field of medicine, Owens is not so sure about over-the-counter distribution of EC.
"I believe this strays radically from the accepted norms of medicine and is not in the best interests of Coloradans," he wrote.
Oh, thanks Dr. Owens! He's also concerned about the professional ethics of pharmacists.
He said he believes the drug should be prescribed by a doctor, that it doesn't offer enough safeguards for pharmacists who don't want to dispense it and he fear it would be used as a form of birth control by young women.
God forbid we have young women using contraception as contraception. Thanks for giving this issue the moral clarity it deserves.

Now, there's also the issue of providing information about EC, if a hospital does not wish to provide the actual drug to rape victims. Please, Msgr. Owens, enlighten us with an explanation of the issues surrounding this subject.
It is one of 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.

This bill would violate fundamental constitutional principles by forcing an institution to say things to patients that it explicitly does not believe to be morally or ethically valid. Allowing such a provision to become law would cross a constitutional line that we must not cross.
Oh yes? And how about the science?
My first concern is a technical but essential difference in the forms of emergency contraception that are offered. One method that is covered by this legislation would prevent a fertilized egg from imbedding in the uterine wall. This raises serious concerns for those whose conscience tells them that a fertilized egg is a human life.

Yet the Legislature, regrettably, voted down an amendment that would have informed the victim fully about the effect of this form of contraception. Without informed consent, a woman could innocently violate her personal, moral and religious beliefs about when life begins. The provision of information is not a denial of treatment. Yet House Bill 1042 will not trust a woman with this extremely significant information.
It's all so clear now! Thank you, Governor, for disspelling the myths being propagated by people who actually went to medical school, actually deal with the ethics of pharmacy, and actually have to be the ones who carry pregnancies. Your background in trade policy has surely readied you to face down these so-called experts and tell them how things really are.

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