Another Pharmacy Refuses to Sell Emergency Contraception to a Man

Another Pharmacy Refuses to Sell Emergency Contraception to a Man

By Lisa Graybill, ACLU of Texas & Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

It happened again. Another pharmacy in Texas — this time a CVS — refused to sell emergency contraception to a man who sought to purchase the product for his wife. Jason Melbourne sought the medication at a Mesquite, Texas CVS, only to be confronted by a pharmacist, and her supervisor, who refused to sell him the medication because he is a man. The pharmacist demanded that Melbourne’s wife accompany him to the store, despite the fact that she was home with their two young children. Luckily, he was able to eventually purchase the medication from a nearby store without incident.

In 2010 and 2011, we saw a wave of discrimination like this at pharmacies in Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. We thought that this unfortunate trend was over, and that pharmacies heard our earlier message loud and clear: men and women who make healthy family planning decisions should be supported, and unnecessary obstacles to accessing emergency contraception cannot be tolerated given that time is of the essence to avoid an unintended pregnancy. Emergency contraception is most effective the sooner a woman takes it, and its effectiveness decreases every 12 hours. It is therefore crucial that a customer access emergency contraception as soon as it is needed.

So we’ve sent a letter to CVS, reminding them that FDA guidelines specifically say that both men and women who are over 17 years old may purchase emergency contraception without a prescription, and asking that CVS ensure that this doesn’t happen again. We hope that CVS does the right thing, and we hope we see an end to this disturbing trend in 2012.

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Henneberger and the Pro-Choice Cassandra Syndrome: WashPo Columnist Continues Tradition of Ignoring Reality

Over the weekend, one of the most clear-cut examples of the Cassandra syndrome as applied to the pro-choice movement came to pass. For those who don’t know, “Cassandra” refers to a famous figure in Greek mythology, described by Wise Geek accurately as

Cassandra is often thought of as the doomsayer of the Trojan people, according to Greek mythology. She was a chosen prophet of Apollo, who failed to either obey his instructions or return his love, depending upon the version of the myth. Thus Apollo gifted her with prophecy, but at the same time, he made sure that no one would ever believe anything she said.

As such, the prophecies of Cassandra are always true, but people around her treat her like a madwoman. As the daughter of King Priam of Troy, she prophesies the destruction and fall of Troy to the Athenians. Cassandra is, of course, ignored.

In some versions of the tale, Cassandra warns the Trojans not to accept the gift of the wooden horse statue from the Greeks; this warning is ignored and pretty much laughed at, resulting in the final battle that destroys Troy.

Journalists and researchers who objectively watch and understand the anti-choice movement can certainly relate. It’s been quite clear to us for a long time now that the anti-choice movement not only wants to ban abortion, but wants to restrict access to contraception, and in many cases, ban it outright. But every time we point this out, we’re poo-poohed and treated like madwomen.  It seems that no amount of evidence marshaled to support our argument matters. We stand there around screaming, “Now come on! Don’t you see all the feet and arms sticking out of that wooden horse? Why do you think it sounds like there are people singing Greek battle songs inside it? It’s full of Greeks!”, only to be faced with our fellow Trojans, cheerfully rolling it in and saying, “Don’t be such a pissy pants. This horse is a very nice gift and we don’t like looking gift horses in the mouth.” Because they fear if they did, they wouldn’t be able to deny that there’s a bunch of Greeks sitting in the mouth, sharpening swords.

On Wednesday, Irin Carmon at Salon wrote a round-up of the evidence that Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control: he supports an overturn of the Supreme Court decision, he wants to defund family planning clinics, he has repeatedly said that he thinks contraception is immoral and that all sex should be procreative. Melinda Henneberger responded with a baffling “nuh-uh!” piece in the Washington Post, claiming that she asked Santorum if he was coming after our birth control, and he denied it, which satisfied her.

This, even though, in the very same interview, Santorum admitted that he’s coming for your birth control, reiterating his support for defunding family planning. Putting contraception out of the reach of a huge share of American women certainly sounds like coming after your birth control to me. Perhaps Henneberger doesn’t really see low-income women as part of the collective “you” that Carmon was addressing, and needs a reminder that legally, low-income women are—believe it or not—still considered citizens and human beings.

Irin responded by pointing out that the piecemeal approach has long been the favorite of anti-choicers, and so the fact that any opponent of birth control “just” wants to restrict access severely shouldn’t be taken as evidence of anything but that they’re trying to get away with as much as they can now, hoping to be able to get away with more in the future. But Henneberger wants a much higher bar from claiming that someone is coming for your birth control. The evidence she said she’d accept is “a bonfire of the barrier methods” or “metaphorically riffling through medicine chests and nightstands from coast to coast.” Presumably, if there’s a bonfire of female-controlled methods, or the riffling through medicine chests is restricted to the red states, that wouldn’t rise to the level of bona fide opposition to contraception in Henneberger’s book.

Which brings up a question. Imagine if social conservatives demanded the defunding of all libraries, insisted that states have a right to ban the sale and possession of books that aren’t the Bible, and advocated that schools stop teaching reading. Would Henneberger take umbrage if liberals said that they were “coming after your books,” snottily claiming that we can’t say they have a problem with books until they’re actually burning them in the streets? After all, blue states would still allow legal access to books and wealthy people would be able to afford tutors to teach their children to read. Only hysterics would think that this new movement was anti-literacy, by the impossibly high standards she’s set. They’re clearly just really dedicated to “states rights”.

Santorum has certainly been trying to imply that his open hostility to Griswold v. Connecticut is simply an unfortunate result of his principled belief that the Supreme Court is basically an illegitimate institution that should have apparently no power to rule against states that the Court feels violate the Constitution. Leaving aside whether or not he’s made an argument to support that contention, the question remains: why then use Griswold as your example? Jill at Feministe pointed out the problem with this argument:

Welcome to Disingenuous Central. “Contraception has nothing to do with it”? Sure. Santorum just picked that case of out thin air. I’m sure he was going through the list of cases where the court evaluated state law and was like, “Hmmm, Brown v. Board of Ed, Loving v. Virginia, Engle v. Vitale, Cohen v. California, Marsh v. Alabama, NAACP v. Button, Stanley v. Georgia, Gonzalez v. Raich… Oh I just like the sound of the name Griswold, let’s go with that.”

Exactly. If you want to illustrate that you have an absolutist view that the Court should never consider state law, you would reach for a decision that is more famous, such as Brown v. Board of Ed. Or, if he won’t say it, he should be asked about Brown as a follow-up, instead of simply taking him at his word that he’s simply opposed to federal courts have jurisdiction over states.  If he supports an overturn of Brown, okay, well, he’s being consistent. But I doubt he’d actually say that if asked. So then we have to ask, well, then why on earth would he single out Griswold if it wasn’t for his well-established anti-contraception views?

Henneberger refused to perform simple due diligence in her supposed “debunking” of pro-choice claims. On the contrary, she seems to have already determined that the silly little feminists are being hysterical, and didn’t feel any need to conduct basic journalism that gets to the heart of this question. If she had done her job, she probably would have come to the same conclusions as Carmon did in her Salon pieces.

Collision of Reality and Ideology: Karen Santorum’s Past and Rick Santorum’s Vision of Your Future

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was amended at 3:02 pm on Monday, January 9th, 2012 to correct an error. A case cited in the original version as Lawrence v Kansas should have been Lawrence v Texas. The text now reflects the correct citation.

“When she met Rick, Karen was living with Tom Allen, an OBGYN who in the early 1970s cofounded Pittsburgh’s first abortion clinic. It was a somewhat unusual pairing. Allen was the doctor who delivered Karen. She began living with him while an undergraduate nursing student at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University.  She was in her early 20s, he was in his 60s…..‘When she moved out to go be with Rick, she told me I’d like him, that he was pro-choice’ said Allen.’”

The above quote is from an article on Senator Rick Santorum first published in a Philadelphia weekly in 2005, with similar material later repeated in U.S.News and World Report.  Normally, I feel that the past sexual history of a candidate’s spouse should be off limits to journalists and bloggers. But given Santorum’s rising fortunes as a serious candidate for the presidency, and in particular, his astonishing views on sexuality and contraception, I believe that attention to Karen Santorum’s past is warranted in this instance.

Here, as reported by the journalist Michelle Goldberg, is a summary of the Senator’s position on these topics: “It’s [contraception] not OK. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Included in this is birth control used by married couples. Sex, he said, is ‘supposed to be for purposes that are yes, conjugal and unitive, but also procreative. Most presidents don’t talk about such things’, he said, but ‘these are important public policy issues. They have profound impact on the health of our society.’”

Santorum also believes the government should be able to ban adultery and gay sex. Here is his comment to the press, expressing his disapproval of the 2003 Lawrence v Texas decision, in which the Supreme Court overturned Texas’ anti-sodomy law:

“And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does.”

In recent days, Santorum has restated his belief that states have the right to outlaw birth control.  As he told ABC news, “The state has a right to do that… It is not a constitutional right, the state has the right to pass whatever statues they have.” (The Senator, trained as a lawyer, evidently has forgotten, or chooses to ignore, that in the 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold v Connecticut, the Court found  such a constitutional right).

What does all this have to with Karen Santorum’s past, before her marriage to the Senator?  In simplest terms, Mrs. Santorum was living in a situation–unmarried but cohabitating, and presumably using birth control—that has become only more common in American society since the late 1980s, when she lived with Dr. Allen. (Indeed, the only difference between Karen Santorum and millions of other Americans in similar circumstances, then and now, was the unusually large gap in age between her and her partner).  

Currently married couples form less than half the households in the U.S. (with many cohabitating couples eventually going on to marry, though obviously, as in the case of Karen Santorum, not all do).  Moreover, premarital sex, whether or not it takes place in the context of a cohabitating household, is nearly universal in the U.S. and has been so for decades. With respect to contraception, some 98 percent of American women who have had sexual intercourse report using contraception at least some of the time to prevent pregnancy.  With respect to abortion, about which, if the article cited above is correct, apparently both Santorums once approved, approximately one out of three American women will have this procedure by the age of 45.

In short, Rick Santorum’s stated policy positions, which include not only his well known obsession with abolishing legal abortion, but also his opposition to birth control and all nonprocreative sexual acts, are greatly out of step with the lives of the vast majority of Americans.  Clearly, the Santorums have changed their views over time on the issues of premarital sex and contraception as well as abortion, moving in a far more conservative direction. The couple has attributed these changes to a deepening religious faith, and such new beliefs are of course their right. But the Senator’s fervent desire to deny the rest of us the sexual and reproductive choices that his own wife once enjoyed is breathtakingly hypocritical and cruel.