Digital map of access to Plan B
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|Fri, 02-15-2008 - 12:59pm|
Cute idea - this group made a map of Washington state pharmacies, they called the pharmacies up asking for Plan B and put the results on their map.
Last year I called all the pharmacies around me and asked about Plan B, just to see how they'd answer me. I'm pleased to report that they were polite, rapid, and factual.
ONto the news:
Site maps stores that don't sell Plan B
Women unable to get drug at 10% of state's pharmacies
By TOM PAULSON
One of the state's leading pro-choice organizations has issued a Web-based, interactive map that shows which pharmacies in Washington either don't stock or refuse to provide customers with an emergency contraceptive drug known as Plan B.
· See NARAL's interactive map of pharmacies in the state.
"I was astounded at how many," said Karen Cooper, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington (the second-largest state affiliate, after New York, of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League).
According to a phone survey done by Cooper's organization, one out of 10 pharmacies in the state either do not stock the drug or employ at least one pharmacist who refuses to dispense it upon request. The organization held a Seattle news conference Wednesday, calling on the public to use the Web-based information to confront pharmacists who refuse to provide the medication.
The question of whether pharmacists have the legal right, on personal moral or religious grounds, to refuse to dispense the drug is now under argument in court. Some pharmacists have sued in federal court challenging a state regulation that requires pharmacies to provide Plan B upon request.
"I was turned away," said Trina Stout, a 23-year-old Seattle woman who said at the NARAL news conference that she went to Parks Pharmacy in the Green Lake area recently to buy the contraceptive. Stout said the pharmacist inquired why she wanted it and then abruptly told her they did not stock the drug.
"The pharmacist was unsympathetic and rude," she said. Stout said the experience left her shaken, but she did, eventually, obtain Plan B at another pharmacy.
Staffers at Parks Pharmacy declined to comment, and the owner did not return several telephone calls Wednesday. A call to the Washington State Pharmacy Association also was not returned.
Plan B, a hormonal medication, can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse. The drug, levonorgestrel, is a higher-dose version of standard birth control pills and may prevent pregnancy by preventing the release of an egg or by preventing fertilization.
"This is not an abortion pill," said Trudi Inslee, wife of Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., and a board member of the NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Foundation. Inslee encouraged people to ask their pharmacist if they do provide Plan B to a woman upon request, without a prescription, as required by law.
"Let them know you're aware of this and you're watching," she said.
Inslee said it is unacceptable for a minority of pharmacists to block any woman's access to legal medication based upon their personal opinions or beliefs
Cooper said the NARAL volunteers who performed the survey successfully interviewed with 1,014 of the 1,190 pharmacies they identified statewide. Of those surveyed, 7.4 percent of the pharmacies do not stock Plan B contraceptives and 3 percent reported having at least one pharmacist on the premises who refuses to dispense the drug.
George Fearing, a congressional candidate for the 4th District in Eastern Washington, said this presents a tremendous burden for women living in some small, rural communities.
"If there is not quick access, sometimes there is no access," Fearing said. He and Darcy Burner, an 8th District Democratic congressional candidate who is challenging Rep. David Reichert, R-Wash., both spoke at the Seattle news conference in support of unrestricted access to Plan B.
Cooper said her organization also did opinion polling last month, showing that 70 percent of voters in Washington believe pharmacies should be required to fill all valid prescriptions.
P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at 206-448-8318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.