Our Opinion: Reproductive health choice in Arizona at riskby Tucson Citizen on Feb. 16, 2009, under Opinion
A woman in remote rural Arizona could have to travel far to fill a doctor’s prescription if state Rep. Nancy Barto has her way.
Under Barto’s HB 2564, Arizona pharmacists could cite a “moral objection” and refuse to fill emergency contraception prescriptions.
They could decline to provide such time-sensitive drugs – required within 72 hours – without any medical or professional justification; the pharmacist could just say “no.”
Such refusals pose serious problems for rural and low-income women, who can’t always get to another pharmacy quickly or easily.
“Certainly, people in rural areas are accustomed to traveling long distances for services,” Barto says cavalierly. “This isn’t going to keep women from receiving these prescriptions.”
But it may – in which case Arizona’s pro-life politicians would be limiting women’s pharmaceutical choices yet encouraging abortion, the next logical choice for many women blocked from procuring emergency contraceptives.
Also troublesome is the erosion of professional standards if pharmacists can pick and choose which prescriptions to fill.
It is the physician, not the pharmacist, who is trained to decide which medications are best for a particular patient in a certain situation.
That’s common sense, and 51 percent of Republicans and independents polled nationally in October strongly favor legislation to ensure patients get contraception at their pharmacy of choice.
Only four states allow pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription: Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota.
Yet pharmacist refusals have been documented in 22 states, including Arizona, says Gretchen Borchelt, senior counsel for the National Women’s Law Center.
By contrast, 14 states have taken steps – through legislation, pharmacy board rules or other means – to ensure women can fill prescriptions at their drugstore of choice.
The bill by Barto, a Phoenix Republican who lists her occupation as homemaker, will find support in the conservative Republican Legislature and from Gov. Jan Brewer.
Yet its pharmacist provision is only one of many troubling features. It also would require adult women seeking abortion to first undergo 24 hours of “reflection,” be informed of alternatives to abortion, be briefed on available pre- and post-natal medical benefits and government assistance, and be told the probable gestational age and physiological features of the fetus.
In other words, patronizing state law would try to dissuade women from their own very personal choice.
This is bad legislation but likely will become law. If it does, only election of pro-choice candidates in 2010 will provide Arizona women with hope.