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Punishing Women By Withholding Life-Saving Care


Written by Amanda Marcotte for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

The excuse behind laws that restrict access to reproductive health services is always “life” and “morality”.  The reality of actual restrictions on reproductive health services is punishment and misogyny.  Pro-choicers often feel like we’re blue in the face repeating this, but sadly, it’s what we must do until people get it. 

The latest incident that proves the maxim, “By ‘life’ they mean ‘punishing women’” happened in Idaho. Citing the anti-choice craze of pharmacist right of refusal, a Walgreens pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for a drug to stop uterine bleeding, demanding that the nurse practitioner tell her if this was post-abortion care or not.  The nurse refused to answer, but the implication was clear---the “pro-life” pharmacist was going to refuse potentially life-saving care to a woman she deemed an unchaste abortion having bad girl.

This is the only rational explanation, of course.  Even if you justify your anti-choice views by claiming deep love for fetal life, in this particular case, there is no fetal life to save.  There is only a woman who needs this drug.  As Robin Marty notes:

But refusing a drug that stops bleeding?  The abortion has already happened.  The "murder" has already taken place.  And by not allowing the patient to have medicine to control her bleeding afterward, and refusing to transfer the prescription so it could be filled in a timely manner, that pharmacist was not only not "saving a life" but could have caused the death of a woman in the process.

Of course, pharmacy refusals have never been about “life” and have always been about sex and punishing women who the pharmacist suspects of not fulfilling some chastity requirement.   Pharmacists can’t prescribe abortion drugs. Those have to be dispense in a doctor’s office.  Pharmacists basically don’t sell anything that is used to end fetal life.  Pharmacy refusals have always been about trying to force women to get pregnant in the first place, by trying to interrupt their access to birth control, especially in emergency birth control situations, where timing is most important. Read more