The New York Times
has a pretty good story on Governor Rod's clash with right-wing pharmacists over contraceptives. Excerpt:
"CHICAGO, April 18 - As a fourth-generation pharmacist whose drugstore still sits on the courthouse square of his conservative small town downstate, State Senator Frank Watson knew exactly what side to take when Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich ordered pharmacies to fill prescriptions for women wanting the new "morning after" pill, even if it meant putting aside their employees' personal views.
"The governor is trying to make a decision that must be left to the pharmacy," said Senator Watson, whose family business, Watson's Drug Store in Greenville, Ill., does not stock the pill. "It's an infringement on a business decision and also on the pharmacist's right of conscience."
Senator Watson, the Republican leader of the Senate, and Governor Blagojevich, a Democrat, are the latest combatants in a growing battle over emergency contraception. In at least 23 states, legislators and other elected officials have passed laws or are considering measures in a debate that has attracted many of the same advocates and prompted much of the same intensity as the fight over abortion.
In some states, legislators are pushing laws that would explicitly grant pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense drugs related to contraception or abortion on moral grounds. Others want to require pharmacies to fill any legal prescription for birth control, much like Governor Blagojevich's emergency rule in Illinois, which requires pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill to dispense it without delay. And in some states, there are proposals or newly enacted laws to make the morning-after pill more accessible, by requiring hospitals to offer it to rape victims or allowing certain pharmacists to sell it without a prescription.
Some of the bills could become moot if the Food and Drug Administration approves the morning-after pill for over-the-counter sale by pharmacists, something advocates for women's reproductive rights and several Democratic senators have pressured the agency to do.
If over-the-counter sales are allowed, experts on the issue say, pharmacists who do not want to provide the pill on moral grounds could simply decide not to stock it, which current state laws already allow them to do. If a large drugstore chain decided to stock it, but an individual pharmacist in the chain objected, such a dispute might be governed by the employment agreements between the chain and the pharmacist.
But the bills may also lay the groundwork for pharmacists' actions regarding future controversial medications. And both sides in the debate may consider the publicity generated by any proposed legislation to be beneficial to their cause.
"This is going to be a huge national issue in the future," said Paul Caprio, director of Family-Pac, a conservative group that urged pharmacists in Illinois to ignore Governor Blagojevich's rule. "Pharmacists are coming forward saying that they want to exercise their rights of conscience."
Nancy Keenan, the president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said she believed the issue was blocking women in many parts of the country from getting morning-after prescriptions filled, though she had no firm statistics. "It's difficult to get the hard numbers because there's not a mechanism for women to report this," she said. "But we have heard about cases from Beverly Hills to Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Chicago - it seems to be all over the country."
In Illinois, Governor Blagojevich enacted his emergency rule after hearing of two women who said a pharmacist had refused to fill their morning-after pill prescriptions at a drugstore downtown this year. Penalties against a pharmacy can range from a fine to revocation of its license to dispense drugs.
Since April 1, officials at the governor's office say, two more people have filed complaints to an emergency hot line about similar situations. On Monday, Governor Blagojevich submitted paperwork to try to make his emergency rule permanent.
On the other side of the debate, two pharmacists from downstate Edwardsville, Ill., filed suit against the governor and his emergency rule last week, saying it infringed on their right to weigh their own "conscientious convictions" while carrying out their work. A third pharmacist filed a similar suit on Friday. "