Blunt faces fights over birth control restrictions

The Coalition Against the War on Women is working to keep the morning-after pill available.
Friday, November 18, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[Note: this story has been modified since its original posting.]

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri coalition was formed to protect the availability of the morning-after pill after Gov. Matt Blunt said he would support a law making it optional for state pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the pill.

The Coalition Against the War on Women consists of women’s rights groups, religious organizations and other advocacy groups.

“We are going to be putting relentless pressure on this governor and on every single legislator if this governor puts before them a bill that they are going to have vote up or down,” said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region, which is a member of the coalition.

Jessica Robinson, Blunt spokeswoman, said the governor has a moral obligation to protect the lives of unborn children.

“He would support legislation, or he would support a state statute or law that would ensure that pharmacists are allowed to refuse to stock the drugs that induce abortions,” Robinson said.

The morning-after pill, also known as Plan B, contains a high dose of regular birth-control hormones that when taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex can lower the chance of becoming pregnant.

“This is a woman’s best second chance at preventing an unintended pregnancy,” Gianino said.

The number of pharmacists refusing to fill morning-after pill prescriptions has increased in recent years, Gianino said.

“It’s an infringement on the patients rights, and it’s an inappropriate meddling and interference of the doctor-patient relationship.”

Opponents of the morning-after pill are critical of it because it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

“The majority of the people in our state share the governor’s belief that abortion is wrong and that Missouri’s unborn children should be protected,” Robinson said. “So certainly if a pharmacist does not consciously feel that it’s appropriate to stock these drugs that induce abortions, the governor feels they should have that right not to have to stock those drugs in their pharmacies.”

The pill gained national attention recently when the FDA delayed its decision on whether the pill will be allowed to be sold without a prescription. The FDA approved the pill for use as a prescription drug in 1999.

The Government Accountability Office released a report Monday saying the FDA’s decision to deny over-the-counter sales of the morning after pill was unusual because it did not follow the normal decision-making procedure.

A section of the report reads, “The decision to not approve the Plan B OTC (over-the-counter) switch application was not typical of the other 67 proposed prescriptions to OTC switch decisions made from 1994 through 2004.”

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