Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dispense medication, not judgement

On Monday, Pope Benedict gave a speech at the Vatican, telling Catholic pharmacists to refuse to dispense medications with "clearly immoral goals". Read between the lines, he means medications used for pregnancy prevention and euthanasia.

Now, I know, you are probably saying "the Pope is against birth control, blow me over with a feather". True, the Vatican makes no secret of the fact that they are opposed to any "artificial" birth control methods. What is scary is the context and what else he said. He said it was a "recognized right" to object to things you find morally objectionable. That means that if you are a pharmacist, or any person for that matter, who has the control over what someone else needs, you can put your moral judgment above theirs. He also says that the pharmacist has a right to tell someone of the moral implications that their decisions have. So, the Pope is also OK'ing prostylitizing to other people. (Also, it would be great if he could talked about things based on medical facts, like how medications like Plan B prevent conception, so that you end up preventing many abortions from even taking place.)

I understand that the Catholic Church and the Pope have their beliefs. I also understand that it is a Papal Doctrine and the Catholic laws themselves have no restrictions to determining life or use of birth control. As someone who comes from a Catholic background, I have no problem with Catholics following what their beliefs tell them. Many family members and I disagree on many issues, but we are glad we have a right to disagree and that we can both live freely with that. What I have a major problem with is when they, or anyone else for that matter, start infringing on my right to my own beliefs. Here in the US, we may not think much about this, thanks to Right to Privacy and what groups like Planned Parenthood have done to maintain separation of church and state in medicine, but in strongly Catholic countries, this is a huge interferrence to what women should have available if they want/need it.

If Pharmacists start following the guidelines that the Pope gives, where does it end? So, you oppose birth controls, Plan B, etc... but what about when someone comes in to get medications for HIV/AIDS? I mean, if you are opposing birth control because you believe that people should wait until marriage (even though an overwhelming number doesn't), then if someone contracts an STD, can you oppose giving them the life saving medications they need? The Vatican has stated that there needs to be support for people living with HIV/AIDS, so would that mean that its OK to treat them once they have it, but after you shake your finger at them? Is that what the world needs?

Times are changing. Like it or not, these life saving medications are available. People are able to go on to lead healthy and successful lives so that later on if they make the choice to have children, those children are going to be brought into a much healthier situation that they will certainly thrive in better. There is widespread poverty and illness in the world, something that the Vatican has always said is their main goal to eradicate. So, I hope they work on that and I hope they do a great job, I just wish that the church would stay out of my pharmacy. I heard once that one of the CEO's of a major national chain pharmacy said "your job is to dispense medication, not judgment. If you can't do that, maybe this isn't the job for you". I agree wholeheartedly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anti Union Ballot Initiative Bad for Women's Health

Word on the street is that there's going to be what's called a "Right to Work" initiative on the ballot in November 2008 here in Michigan. This title, like so many in politics, is totally deceiving. If passed, "Right to Work" would make it illegal for unions to require payment or membership as a condition of employment within unionized sectors of the workforce. Without the commitment of all employees, joint action to better wages and benefits, or to fight for safe working conditions, is impossible. Since all employees in a unionized shop benefit from the action of union efforts, all employees must be invested in the process, so that the betterment provided by their victories are fairly distributed.

Simply put, so-called "Right to Work," initiatives destroy and illegalize the very concept that makes Unions work. As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr said, "Right-to-work...provides no 'rights' and no 'work' ... Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining." History shows us, whether it be in the battle for labor rights, the civil rights movement, or the reproductive justice movement, working together collectively, across class, race, and gender lines, is what has made our life-changing and life-saving successes possible.

As a state with a strong Union history, we have seen gains far beyond those states that are "Right to Work." For example, Michigan workers have higher average pay than workers in these states- $7,600 higher a year, in fact. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is significantly higher in non-union states (41%), as is poverty (3.8% compared with Michigan) and infant mortality (16%). Why would we want to go down that path?

Since so many Americans, and Michiganders for that matter, already have trouble accessing affordable reproductive health care because they don't make enough money and don't have health insurance, taking away the right to collectively bargain for benefits and pay for many of Michigan's workers doesn't make sense. Currently, over 580,000 Michigan women need publicly funded contraceptives because they have incomes below 250% of the federal poverty level. 15% of Michigan women between 15 and 44 are without health insurance at all, including Medicaid coverage (13% of Women have Medicaid, meaning 28% are low income.)

In Michigan, 239 publicly funded family planning clinics provide contraceptive care to over 233,800 women and family planning clinics in Michigan serve only 40% of all women in need of publicly supported contraceptive services. We already cannot meet the need of all the women and couples who need reproductive health and family planning services. We should not create a situation where more Michigan residents will be living with low incomes and no insurance.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The War on Birth Control, Part 1

In this day and age, it seems like hyperbole to say there is a war being waged against birth control, but there have been so many recent attacks that it is pretty easy to make the case. This is the first of a series of posts I’ll be making about blatant attacks on contraception.

Earlier this week, the Bush administration announced the appointment of Susan Orr as the agency’s acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. Unfortunately, that “acting” designation means she is not subject to Senate confirmation. The position makes her responsible for the oversight of Title X, the federal family planning program that serves more than 5 million low-income Americans annually. Title X helps low-income women get birth control. In a bit of irony that only the Bush administration could generate, Orr represents the second appointment this year of an anti-birth control crusader to a position that is responsible for providing low-income women with birth control.

In Orr’s former position as senior director for marriage and family care at the Family Research Council, a political organization that opposes family planning, she cheered the Bush administration’s proposed elimination of the contraceptive coverage requirement from federal employees’ health insurance. Said Orr of the proposal, “We’re quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It’s not a medical necessity that you have [contraception].”

She said that requiring insurance companies to cover contraception was “making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.” That is a strong statement considering 98% of us are using birth control at some point in our lives.

Earlier this year, Bush appointed Eric Keroack, another anti-birth control extremist, for the same post. Keroack served as head of an organization called “A Woman’s Concern,” which boasted an anti-contraception policy on its website that declared birth control is “demeaning to women.” Keroack stepped down earlier this year amid Medicaid fraud allegations.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D–CA) said it best: “This appointment is absurd.”

You can take action against this outrageous appointment at

Monday, October 1, 2007

I moved to Michigan a little over a year ago, and I think it’s a wonderful place! In fact, I’m surprised how much I like it and how quickly I felt at home here. The beautiful scenery, the culture, and the people all make Michigan a place I want to stay. But this budget crisis we’re in is worrying me. I can’t even fathom 1.7 billion dollars! What I do know though is that our legislators have one job that they legally have to complete--and that’s to introduce and ratify a balanced budget. And I know that this is tough, but unlike last year, I don’t want a band-aid. I want to see lasting changes made that will help Michigan grow and prosper, so that I can stay here and raise a family with a good quality of life. I think we’ve cut more services than we can afford to and am glad our elected officials have finally realized it’s time to enhance revenues (yes, that means implement or raise taxes) so that we can function effectively without throwing social programs and those that depend on them out the window. Investing in the future of Michigan and Michiganders by raising taxes a little is a small price to pay for security and prosperity in the long run. I don’t want to see Michigan “race to the bottom,” allowing short-term fixes that benefit a few right now rather than the majority of folks over time. I want to get through this budget stuff and start functioning as a respectable state again. I’m skeptical of those that want to cut all non-essential services to save money, because I think some of these are quite essential! Investing now does save money in the long run. For example, every dollar spent on Family Planning saves three dollars later in Medicaid costs. Helping people with disabilities find work saves millions later in disability benefits, welfare costs, and emergency room visits. To me the bottom line is that Michigan has a responsibility to take care of its people and to provide opportunities for them to prosper. It’s unfair that the hard-headed anti-taxers want to ruin the chance for this to happen.