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Secretary of Health Thompson Unsupportive of Emergency Contraception

In a letter to US Representative Robert Aderholt (R-AL), US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson stated that Alabama family planning clinics are not required to provide emergency contraception. The Alabama Department of Public Health, however mandated this past April that all its clinics must offer emergency contraception (EC) or the department would run the risk of losing $5 million in federal family planning funding, according to the Birmingham News. As a result of this mandate, the Associated Press reports that 11 nurses have quit their jobs at state family planning clinics and approximately 50 workers have asked for new assignments due to their personal objections to distributing EC. The actions of these health care providers are evidence of the growing numbers of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who refuse to prescribe or honor prescriptions for emergency contraception. Alabama’s Christian Coalition challenged the state health department’s mandate, seeking clarification of the federal requirements from Secretary Thompson. His verdict, according to the Birmingham News, was that states “should make all methods of contraception available,” but the state is not required to offer emergency contraception. Advocates of emergency contraception say that Thompson’s decision shows a lack of commitment to women’s reproductive health and sends a clear message to states that they can be weak on supporting women’s reproductive rights. “This is election year double-speak that is typical of this administration and panders to right wing conservatives, not to responsible women trying to make the best choices about their lives,” said Dr. Beth Jordan of the Feminist Majority, “What one Ôshould do’ is remarkably different from actually doing something. Secretary Thompson is essentially telling states they can shirk their family planning responsibilities. Thankfully, Alabama seems to have its public health priorities in tact.” Dr. Thomas Miller, director of the bureau of family health services at the Alabama Department of Public Health, has said that the department plans to continue offering emergency contraception at its clinics. “It’s excellent public health policy,” Miller told the Birmingham News, “We have a rock-solid reason to do itÉ It’s a good thing to do for the low-income women of this state.” TAKE ACTION about the Feminist Majority Foundation’s campaign to expand access to EC on college campuses LEARN MORE about the Feminist Majority Foundation’s campaign to expand access to EC on college campuses LEARN MORE Click here to read women’s narratives about barriers or successes in accessing reproductive health and family planning services. DONATE to support FMF’s work to win over-the-counter status for emergency contraception

Sources:

Associated Press 7/29/04; Birmingham News 7/29/04