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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Law could limit access to Plan B

A new Arizona law could reduce the availability of emergency contraception medication for women on campus and in the community.

The law, signed in July and set to take effect Sept. 30, will set up a series of policies that proponents say will safeguard women’s health,  but critics say will cause women undue stress and complicate an already delicate issue.

A major component of the legislation allows pharmacy employees to refuse to provide emergency contraception medication, such as Plan B, also known as the “”morning-after pill”” based on religious beliefs. This pill is offered by Campus Health Services, said chief pharmacist Kim Birmingham, who added the campus pharmacy sells “”quite a few (of the pills) on a daily basis.””

Although campus officials are uncertain how pharmacy employees on campus will act under the provision, associate dean of the College of Pharmacy Ted Tong, who does not work for CHS, said most pharmacies would find a way to provide patients the medication they need even if individual employees do not want a hand in the distribution of a certain drug.

“”As pharmacists, we always need to be vigilant about our responsibilities to our patients,”” he said.

The legislation, he added, seems more designed to protect the rights of pharmacy employees than to restrict access to emergency contraceptives.

Becky Blackburn, communications director for the Arizona House of Representatives Republican Caucus, also expressed support for the law, which was originally introduced by Rep. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix).

Asked whether the law would change access to emergency contraception for students, she responded, “”In my mind, it’s not going to change anything.””

But Democratic Rep. Daniel Patterson, who represents downtown and southeast Tucson, says the law will change things. Pharmacy employees have a professional obligation to provide medications like Plan B, regardless of their beliefs, he says.

“”If you have a problem providing some kind of legally approved, FDA approved medication, then you’re in the wrong profession,”” he said.

The legislative majority’s focus on social issues during the economic crisis is an out-of-touch priority, he said.

“”(The legislature) can pass a bill to attack women’s rights for reproductive choices, but we can’t get a budget done,”” Patterson said. “”It’s totally unacceptable.””

On Sept. 14 Planned Parenthood Arizona sued the state over the law, citing what its Chief Operating Officer Patti Caldwell called “”legislators stepping in to medical procedures, which is certainly not their area of expertise.””

Religious studies senior and Women’s Resource Center official Malia Uhatafe said state-mandated restrictions do more harm than good.

“”It’s ridiculous,”” she said. “”It’s taking away our freedom of choice.””

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