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US House Committee Holds Hearing on Illinois Emergency Contraception Ruling

On Monday, the US House Committee on Small Business held a hearing to on the issue of pharmacists refusing to fill women’s prescriptions for birth control and emergency contraception. A major topic of the hearing was the effects of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s emergency rule requiring pharmacies that sell any kind of contraceptives to fill all birth control prescriptions. Representative Donald Manzullo (R-IL), chair of the committee, called for the hearing, which heard from a representative of the Governor’s office, as well as pharmacists opposed to the ruling and women who supported guaranteed access.

Illinois resident Megan Kelly testified in support of the ruling, as a pharmacist’s refusal to fill her birth control and emergency contraception prescriptions was humiliating and discriminatory. In her testimony, Kelly stated, “Women should never be denied basic health care services by pharmacists who choose to impose their own beliefs on others.” Gov. Blagojevich’s emergency rule also received the support of the Illinois Pharmacists Association, whose executive director testified that the organization “has taken a formal position that we can accept and support these modifications.” Anti-choice lawmakers challenged witnesses such as Kelly, in one case saying that a witness had no “right” to her prescriptions, and in another, trivializing the possible unintended pregnancies caused by unfilled prescriptions as a “minor inconvenience,” according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Senior Democratic committee member Rep. Nydia Velasquez (NY) said, “What is happening today is quite clear. This committee is being used to push the conservative ideological agenda of one person forward,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Members of Congress have proposed bills similar to Blagojevich’s ruling to be enacted on a national scale, and NARAL reports that recent polls have found 80 percent of Americans oppose allowing pharmacists to refuse women’s birth control prescriptions.

Sources:

Associated Press 7/25/05; Chicago Tribune 7/26/05; NARAL Press Release 7/25/05; House of Representatives, Small Business Committee Hearing on Freedom of Conscience for Small Pharmacies, 7/25/05