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Pharmacist Withholds Woman’s Miscarriage Medication Over Abortion Beliefs

Woman holding sign that says, "Ugh, where do I even start?"

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

Midterm elections are just around the corner, and as if you needed any more reason to remember to vote, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested this week that Congressional Republicans may lead yet another attack on the Affordable Care Act after the midterms. Last time Republicans tried to repeal and replace the ACA, their replacement “plan” would have all but allowed pregnancy, having given birth, or surviving sexual violence to be regarded as pre-existing conditions. Attacks on the ACA are direct attacks on women’s health and could prevent millions of American women from being able to afford basic health care to control their bodies.

Election Day is now just under 20 days away, and if you have any lingering questions regarding how to vote, Planned Parenthood Action Fund has created a helpful tool that gives you everything you need to make an informed, comprehensive voting plan.

Women comprise the majority of voters, and as of 2016, single women have been recognized as the most powerful voting bloc in the U.S. That said, it’s OK to be angry, to watch the news and seethe with rage on a daily basis; it’s even OK to feel hopeless and exhausted sometimes. We can feel all of those things and also vote. Women are nothing if not capable of multitasking.

Democracy is a process, which means there’s work to be done every day, and there’s no shame in occasionally missing a day to take care of yourself. But if you’re going to miss a day, certainly don’t miss this November 6, 2018.

Speaking of women being denied health care …

On Thursday, Detroit Free Press reported that a Michigan pharmacist had refused to give a woman prescribed medication abortion to complete a miscarriage. The incident came just months after an Arizona woman faced a similar experience this summer.

The Michigan pharmacist allegedly told the woman he was a “a good Catholic male” who objected to the medication because it’s one of two pills that are “used for abortions.” Since then, the American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to the pharmacy to inform them that the Catholic pharmacist’s behavior was in violation of public accommodation laws. The pharmacy has since responded that pharmacists are allowed to abstain from filling a prescription for their religious beliefs, but are obligated to ask another pharmacist to complete the prescription in their place, or transfer it to a different pharmacy if there is no other pharmacist available to help.

The incident marks yet another frustrating example of anti-choice conservatives’ perversion of “religious freedom,” which, more than anything, just means punishing and humiliating people who don’t adhere to traditional Christian values. How is it not a violation of the Michigan woman’s religious freedom, that she could be denied health care and service for biological needs outside of her control?

The conservative understanding of religious freedom, much like the conservative understanding of most things, is a remarkable reflection of whose experience and comfort are prioritized in America, and who is forced to suffer as a result.

Women in the U.S. can now order abortion pills

This week, The Atlantic reported that Women on the Web, a website that ships medication abortion to people across the globe, has launched another branch specifically to support U.S. women. In light of the new Supreme Court makeup, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Aid Access requires women seeking the abortion pills to pass a screening, and not be more than nine weeks pregnant. (Medication abortion is not guaranteed to be effective after the first trimester.) Aid Access then writes a prescription for the pills of women who pass the screening, and women will receive the medication in the mail. This process adheres to FDA rules that allow people anywhere in the U.S. to order medicine for personal use.

Women on the Web, which is based in the Netherlands, has hesitated to ship to the U.S. out of fear of the extremist American anti-choice movement, which is perfectly understandable. In recent years, there has been a significant uptick in violence and threats from anti-choice extremists, while anti-choice representatives in Congress and every level of government are terrifyingly efficient at passing dangerous legislation that jeopardizes women’s health.

Women on the Web is relied on around the world by people living in countries with restrictive abortion laws, or all-out bans on abortion, and could grow to play a critical role in the U.S. in the years to come. In just a short period of time, already 600 American women have received abortion pills from Aid Access.

In either case, the advent of Aid Access should serve as a crucial reminder that even if the full protections of Roe v. Wade are dismantled, or Roe is reversed altogether, a lot has changed since the years prior to the decision. Certainly, the absence of Roe and full legal protection of abortion rights could place many women in abject danger, but new resources and networks are available to women that didn’t exist decades ago, and if we all support each other—and certainly support the abortion funds that help make access to medication abortion available—we can stand up to any challenge to our reproductive rights that the Supreme Court throws our way.

Iowa contraception services decrease substantially after defunding Planned Parenthood

A new report by the Des Moines Register this week shows Iowa has sharply decreased its family planning services after stripping Planned Parenthood of funding last year. Iowa’s family planning program covered just 970 family planning services from April through June this year, which is a staggering 73 percent decrease from the estimated 3,600 services covered at the same time in 2017.

State legislators banned Planned Parenthood from receiving funding, predictably enough, because the women’s health organization offers abortion services. Of course, it’s worth noting that federal funding cannot legally pay for elective abortion because of the Hyde amendment, a discriminatory law that prioritizes the religious beliefs of some Americans over the lives and bodily autonomy of others.

In any case, as the Des Moines Register’s report shows, the state has now lost $3 million in federal Medicaid funds as a result of this decision, and without the full services of Planned Parenthood, there has been a sharp reduction in who in the state was able to receive family planning care. Sixty percent of Planned Parenthood’s patients access the organization’s health care services for free or low cost through Medicaid and Title X programs.

For all the conservative lore about how defunding Planned Parenthood isn’t a big deal because other clinics could do the job, as Guttmacher Institute has demonstrated, most local community clinics simply do not have the resources and bandwidth to offer care to all Medicaid and Medicare-supported patients who rely on Planned Parenthood. In 491 counties in the U.S. that lack Planned Parenthood clinics, 103 of them have no other clinics where low-income patients could access the same affordable contraceptive and other services offered by Planned Parenthood. These latest numbers by Iowa are further proof of how critical access to and funding for Planned Parenthood are.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Avivi Aharon / Shutterstock.com)

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