As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a problem with our current health insurance system (who doesn’t?!) — specifically with how for the vast majority of people with insurance through their jobs, employers hold power over what should be an individual decision about their health care. As was horrifically evidenced in the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, this linkage allows strangers to have power over which health care options are available to us as consumers, and — completely unsurprisingly — the powers-that-be most often make decisions that disproportionately negatively impact women. And why do these laws allowing these people to make decisions about my health exist? Because, as my hero Dan Savage has frequently said in pointing out the hypocrisy of right-wing politicians, “Conservatives want small government. They want it so small that it can fit inside a woman’s vagina.” So much for personal liberty, eh?
But it isn’t just employers who have the power to make decisions for women. No, it’s pharmacists, too. In early April, a woman named Brittany Cartrett had a miscarriage just five or six weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctor kindly wrote her a prescription for a medication that would allow her to pass the miscarriage without an invasive procedure called a D&C. However, when Cartrett went to the local WalMart pharmacy to fill the prescription, she was told “no.” Apparently, the prescribed medication can also be used to induce abortions and — even though this was not Cartrett or her doctor’s intended use of the medication — the pharmacist stated that she “couldn’t think of a valid reason why [someone] would need this prescription.”
This is a prime example of the country’s cultural and institutional sexism. Six states currently have a law on the books that allows providers to refuse reproductive-related healthcare services to individuals based upon their own religious beliefs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that these individuals have the right to feel however they want to about religion and procreation. But that should not prohibit them from providing services. That goes beyond the scope of their role. That is not their job.
But, is this truly sexist? Isn’t this more of a religious freedom issue than one of sexism? Some could argue that point. But, I chose to include this story, because we don’t see men being denied anything that their doctor has said is necessary. In fact, there’s no debate as to whether health insurance should cover vasectomies or Viagra for men. But when women want to be in control of their bodies, when women choose to make decisions about how and when they reproduce, that’s when conflicts arise. That’s when pharmacists refuse to provide medication, not for anything related to how the drugs will be used, but based on how they could potentially be used. And that, in my opinion, is sexist.