Monday, November 20, 2006

Going JANE on Their Asses.

So Plan B (also known as Emergency Contraception) is now over the counter in South Dakota. Of course, a woman wanting to get it still has to run the obstacle course. If she's under 18, she can't buy it over the counter and has to find a doctor willing to prescribe it.

Both of the hospitals in my city - major, regional medical centers that draw people in from neighboring states - have despicable policies when it comes to EC.

The Catholic hospital's policies are, not surprisingly, dictated by religious doctrine. So let's imagine a woman, Jane, who wants to get EC and goes to this hospital. First, to get EC, Jane must first have been raped. If she was having consensual sex, then no EC for Jane. But if she has been raped, then just-raped Jane must undergo a protein test to see if she has ovulated. If she has ovulated, she will not be given EC, because the Catholic Church believes, in defiance of the medical definition, that preventing a fertilized egg from implanting constitutes abortion (medical science states that pregnancy begins at implantation; thus, abortion can only take place after that). So if just-raped Jane is found to have ovulated, she would then be sent off to to try her luck elsewhere. (One hopes that she would also be given counseling and that representatives from Rape Crisis would at this point begin whacking the hospital staff with their own clipboards.)

At our teaching hospital, decisions about whether or not to prescribe EC are left up to the doctors. That means that Jane may very well find that the doctor on call that weekend is one who will not prescribe EC. (And even if she finds one who will, don't kid yourself that these doctors don't have their own list of qualifications - including that one be married - for EC recipients.)

Well, thank God it's over the counter for women over 18, then, right? It's simply a matter of finding a pharmacy that will carry EC. But one of our major drugstore chains has already said they won't carry it. Another will, but our friend Jane still has to find a pharmacist who will provide it, because pharmacists are allowed to refuse to provide it if they feel self-righteous and judgmental. And while we've all heard about the 72-hour window within which the drug should be taken, the reality is that it should ideally be taken within 24 hours, when it is most effective. So now Jane has a dilemma on her hands.

One local news station quoted an OB/GYN making an interesting suggestion:
"...because the drug must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex in order to be effective, some women may want to consider giving Plan B a regular place in the medicine cabinet alongside the Band-Aids. Dr. Nelson says, 'We know that Plan B works better if it's taken sooner, so having it right at your fingertips when you're in need can make such a big difference.'"
This may not sound newsworthy in civilized areas, but for someone to suggest that women keep EC on hand for emergencies is, in South Dakota, tantamount to calling for abortion on demand through the third trimester.

But it's a damn good idea, isn't it? Do you know what the policies for EC distribution are in your town? Do you want to find out at midnight on a Friday night when the Planned Parenthood clinic is closed until Monday morning?

Back in the '70s, the Jane Collective provided abortions to women who needed them. They collaborated with doctors, but eventually learned to perform them on their own, and with excellent results. More recently, women have worked in groups to perform menstrual extractions as another method of pregnancy prevention (or abortion, depending on whether or implantation has occurred).

So why not an EC Collective? Why not distribute EC across the country, from urban to rural communities, from forward-thinking states to the Victorian ones?

Looks like someone beat me to it.

And meanwhile, if that's a little too bold for your blood, then gather your girlfriends and make an afternoon of demanding EC at one or more of your local drugstores. Go in groups. Alert the media. Make the point that pharmacists don't have the right to determine our future pregnancies.


ken said...

EK looks like an amazing organization and I think it's a great sign that so many people want to take part that they can't even process all the applications right now. As soon as they lift the moratorium on applications I think I will join.

Plain(s)feminist said...

I agree.

If you actually have EC, they'll take applications now. I'm tempted to go buy some for this express purpose.

Anonymous said...

I would be interested in knowing which pharmacies stock and sell EC and which refuse to do so.

I am willing to shop only at pharmacies which will stock EC and to stop shopping at those which are so anti-woman that they refuse to stock and sell EC.

I think we should call on women in S.D. to do the same.

Kelsey said...

I know there was a survey of pharmacies done, but it was before it went OTC, so it may not be totally accurate now. Was that ever published?

Plain(s)feminist said...

anon and Kelsey - I don't know. But we could certainly start calling around. If you make any calls, you could do a guest blog here and post about it. Or we could divvy up the pharmacies between ourselves and any other interested readers, all make some calls, and then post the results here...

Kelsey said...

I'm sure they did a survey, and if we could get that, it would make things a lot easier. I thought the NARAL c3 board was working on it. I'll ask Anna about that.