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Coalition Formed to Protect Emergency Contraceptive

November 17, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

Jefferson City- A Missouri coalition has formed to protect the availability of the morning after pill. The group formed after Gov. Blunt said he would support a law making it optional for state pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the pill. The Coalition Against the War on Women is composed of different women's rights groups, religious organizations and other advocacy groups.

"We are going to be putting relentless pressure on this governor and on every single legislature if this governor puts before them a bill that they are going to have vote up or down," said Paula Gianino, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region which is a member of the coalition.

Jessica Robinson, spokeswoman for Gov. Blunt said the governor has a moral obligation to protect the lives of unborn children.

"He would propose legislation, or he would propose a state statute or law that would ensure that pharmacists are allowed to refuse to stock the drugs that induce abortions," Robinson said.

The morning after pill, also known as Plan B, contains a high dose of regular birth control hormones that when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex can lower the chance of becoming pregnant.

"This is a woman's best second chance at preventing an unintended pregnancy," Gianino said.

The number of pharmacists refusing to fill morning after pill prescriptions has increased in recent years, Gianino said.

"Its an infringement on the patients rights, and its an inappropriate meddling and interference of the doctor patient relationship."

Opponents of the morning after pill are critical of the pill because it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

"The majority of the people in our state share the governor's belief that abortion is wrong and that the Missouri's unborn children should be protected. So certainly if a pharmacist does not consciously feel that it's appropriate to stock these drugs that induce abortions the governor feels they should have that right not to have to stock those drugs in their pharmacies," Robinson said.

The pill gained national attention recently when the FDA delayed its decision on whether the pill will be allowed to be sold without a prescription. The FDA approved the pill for use as a prescription drug in 1999.

The Government Accountability Office released a report Monday saying the FDA's decision to deny over the counter sales of the morning after pill was unusual because it did not follow the normal decision-making process.

A section of the report reads, "The decision to not approve the plan B OTC switch application was not typical of the other 67 proposed prescription-to OTC switch decisions made from 1994 through 2004."