Keep Your Paws Off My Pills

The Roman Catholic storeowner of the Diving Mercy Care Pharmacy in Chantilly, VA has amended the usual convenience store decorum code. Instead of "No shirt, no shoes, no service," manager Robert Semler has installed a "No candy, no soda, and no birth control," policy. The store will instead only stock items that "are health-related, including vitamins, skin care products and over-the-counter medications." It is the seventh pharmacy to be certified by the group Pharmacists for Life International, though there are estimated to be hundreds of stores around the country who practice a no contraceptive policy. And by no contraceptives I mean no condoms either. Certainly no Plan B.

I was raised by two diligent Catholics. Elite Catholics, McCain might have called them. They threw themselves into catechism and intellectual faith in their early marriage. It was a think-set that they latched onto in their youth, throwing themselves fervently into protesting at pro-life rallies (though not as fervently as my aunt and uncle, who sat in front of planned parenthood clinics and got arrested) like others in their twenties may rally to protest a war or a social injustice. This intense Catholicism permeated everything, so I know a bit about the faith. My mother once took away a necklace I found that had a small leprechaun charm hanging from it, because leprechauns are beings of magic and witchcraft.

Still, my parents were somehow were able to marry being well read with being religious, something that seems to evade many devout Christians in this country. Which is why their agreement with the Pope's contraception policies blows my mind, even though a whopping 75 percent of Catholics believe they can still be good Catholics without practicing the Church's policy on birth control.

The Vatican says that birth control and other forms of contraception kill the unborn. Science (read: reality) says they don't. Birth control pills are meant to confuse a woman's body into believing it is pregnant by introducing hormones that prevent a peak of estrogen each month, thus preventing ovulation. If the pills are working correctly, there is no egg to be fertilized. There is a side effect of the pill that thickens the cervical mucus and makes the lining of the uterus unreceptive to the implantation of a fertilized egg, and it is this that the Church seems to oppose. But in a huge percentage of the cases, I'm talking like 100 to one, there is no egg to be fertilized in the first place. But then again, any emission of sperm that is not intended to end in pregnancy is condemned by the Church, hence that lovely thing "Catholic guilt" and parochial school boys fearing blindness and hairy palms circa 1920's Ireland.

In Virginia, pharmacists can turn away any prescription for any reason. In Wisconsin this year, "a state appeals court upheld sanctions against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere." Seven other states require pharmacies or pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions, according to the National Women's Law Center and four give pharmacists the right to turn away any prescriptions.

The owner of Divine Mercy Care can do what he's doing because it is his store and, under Virginia law, he can do what he wants. He can choose not to sell porn and candy and soda, so why not birth control. It's a narrow line to balance on when talking about the regulation of private business. But just as many believe that the government should not regulate small businesses, I feel very strongly that another person's faith should not interfere with my body. This is a pharmacist. He is providing a service critical to people's health. In some rural parts of the country, women do not have access to pharmacies that provide birth control critical to their well being because of policies similar to this one. And if you don't think oral contraceptives have anything to do with health, ask one of the thousands of women who suffer painful menstruations that result in fatigue and anemia–birth control pills help control their cycles and alleviate the symptoms. If the US government does not make great strides to publicize health care, then this stuff will get out of control. I don't understand how there can be state and government sanctioned and funded protection in the form of a police force, and not in the form of a league of doctors. Privatizing health care will only result in the marginalization of how people practice health care. There will be insurance companies that will not provide coverage for birth control pills, but that will provide it for Viagra.

In order for people to receive accurate and adequate health care (which includes access to birth control), there needs to be sameness in the health care industry across the board. Everyone must be devoted to bettering the SCIENCE they practice, and thus bettering the health of the nation. Is this Socialism? You bet your ass it's one of the tenants of Socialism, one that works in many European countries. Capitalism and Democracy are not interchangeable terms. You can tinker with one without mucking up the other.

Author: Cherchez La Femme

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