Just do your job

When a woman walks into pharmacy she expects the druggist to fill the prescription. But one Chicago woman was stunned to find a pharmacist that refused to fill her prescription for contraceptives. Other women in other states have faced similar humiliation and outrage.

These events spurred Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to approve an emergency rule requiring pharmacies to fill birth control prescriptions quickly. Blagojevich said that when a woman goes to get a prescription filled she should be able to expect: “No delays. No hassles. No lectures.” Now anti-birth-control extremists are attacking the governor for his historic action to protect women’s health.

Unfortunately, 13 states are considering legislation allowing pharmacists to refuse to do their job, despite the fact that 95 percent of women in the U.S. use birth control at some point in their lives. These issues affect all Americans, not just women.

“Tomorrow it might be painkillers for a cancer patient. Next year it could be medicine that prolongs the life of a person with AIDS,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who is a co-sponsor of a new bill to ensure pharmacies fill prescriptions.

A parallel and equally dangerous development is the so-called Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (or Weldon Amendment), which allows any federally funded “health care entity” to deny women abortion services or referrals, without penalty. This includes refusing to issue “the morning after pill” even in the case of rape.

In typical right-wing double-speak, the government would be “discriminating” against clinics or hospitals refusing to provide services — even in life-threatening situations — if it penalized them.

NOW says this law should more accurately be called the Federal Refusal Clause. In other words, it allows health care entities to refuse to provide abortion services for any reason. This legislation passed with no debate because it was hidden in the massive FY 2005 omnibus spending bill. A Senate vote to repeal this clause could come anytime before April 30.

These extreme right-wing positions have been repeatedly rejected by the majority of Americans. Once again we have to speak up and guarantee this small group of ultraconservatives doesn’t get its way.

One vote made the difference

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) gave the Bush administration a jolt when he spoke out against the rush to confirm John Bolton as UN ambassador this week.

A vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send Bolton’s nomination to the Senate floor was expected on a straight 10-8 party line vote, despite vehement accusations that Bolton is abusive in his treatment of subordinates and a purveyor of false intelligence.

But then Voinovich challenged the committee chairman, Richard Lugar. “My conscience got me,” he said after a stormy two-hour session. “I wanted more information about this individual and I didn’t feel comfortable voting for him.”

Reluctantly, Lugar postponed the vote for at least a month to permit other witnesses to testify and to dig deeper into Bolton’s record.

Evidently the senators are beginning to see that Bush has sent them a power-hungry megalomaniac ready to crush anyone who disagrees with him. Other Republicans on the committee are also having second thoughts.

Doubtless a flood of messages from his constituents helped Voinovich see the light. The senators may, after all, send Bolton back to the cave he came from.

This setback for Bush may foreshadow defeat in his drive to terminate the Senate filibuster rule. Democrats have used the filibuster to block a handful of outrageous Bush nominees. The strategy works because the Republicans have only 55 seats, five short of the 60 needed to terminate Senate debate.

Bush is pushing for Senate approval of the “nuclear option” to repeal the filibuster rule so that he can push his nominees through with a simple majority. It is key to his plan to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing judges.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will join in a Family Research Council telecast this weekend which brands Democrats as “enemies of religion” for filibustering Bush’s nominees.

Once again, several Republicans, including Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Virginia’s John Warner and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter, have voiced doubts about ending the filibuster rule. Contact your senators today at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to vote against Bolton and for preserving the filibuster rule.

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