It looks like the days of the anti-choice pharmacist are over; now, they’re just plain ole pharmacists. The fantastic news slipped past our radar late last week:
After two years of struggling to balance the rights of patients against the beliefs of health-care workers, the Obama administration on Friday finally rescinded most of a federal regulation designed to protect those who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds.
The decision guts one of President George W. Bush’s most controversial legacies: a rule that was widely interpreted as shielding workers who refuse to participate in a range of medical services, such as providing birth control pills, caring for gay men with AIDS and performing in-vitro fertilization for lesbians or single women.
Friday’s move was seen as an important step in countering that trend, which in recent years had led pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for the emergency contraceptive Plan B, doctors in California to reject a lesbian’s request for infertility treatment, and an ambulance driver in Chicago to turn away a woman who needed transportation for an abortion.
This is an incredibly important step, as this clause didn’t just affect women trying to access potentially life-saving medication or birth control, but also resulted in the refusal of treatment to many other communities like transgender patients, gay and lesbian couples, and people with HIV. There have even been several reports of store clerks refusing to sell condoms to men they perceived to be gay.
In short, this has been a hell of a regulation, and we are thrilled to see it go. The new rule still leaves certain “conscience” rules that have been around before Bush’s addendum for practitioners who don’t want to perform abortions or sterilizations, and also maintains the process for health care workers to file a report if they feel their rights have been violated.
Extremist doctors: Saving women from the anguish of sluttiness
Appeals court says pharmacists can’t refuse to dispense Plan B
Walgreens harasses woman buying Plan B
Attempts to leave lasting impressions: Bush Administration’s “right of conscience” rule.