State-Mandated Distribution of Morning-After Pill Causes Ruckus



A controversy appears to be brewing in Alabama over a situation involving employees at state medical clinics who, for religious and moral reasons, refused to distribute emergency contraception commonly known as the “morning-after pill.” At least two of those who refused claim they were left with no alternative but to resign their positions.

Late last week, the Christian Coalition of Alabama (CCA) reported it had been contacted by “at least a half-dozen” employees of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) who claimed they were forced to distribute the pills or face disciplinary action. Two of those women — one a nursing supervisor with 13 years of state employment, and the other a nurse — told CCA they felt they had no options except to obey the mandate or resign.

Lenita Akles told CCA she was “forced to make a choice between my Christian faith and my job as a nursing supervisor.” That was after she had submitted a request to be exempted from issuing the pills — and refused to counsel women about the pill or write up other employees who refused to distribute it. In addition, Linda Bell, a nurse in Montgomery, stated that distributing the pills was “something I could not do because it violated my Christian principles.”

But the state has a different opinion and, according to a spokesman for the ADPH, denies CCA's claims on behalf of the two women. Dr. Thomas Miller acknowledged last Friday that the department had received “five or six” resignations — none of whom who had asked for accommodation — but that he is not aware of any ADPH employee being required to distribute the pills “who has a pending request for accommodation.”

In fact, he said, many who had made such requests had subsequently withdrawn them; and those whose request was pending are working at family clinics and are not being required to distribute the pills. “The agency is very sensitive to employees' views,” Miller said, “but we are trying to balance that with the needs of the patients we serve.”

It is apparently that issue of “accommodation” that has upset Giles and the Christian Coalition of Alabama. CCA president Giles says Dr. Donald Williamson, the state health officer, has reneged on an earlier agreement. He claims that in late April, Williamson reassured CCA that any employees with “religious, moral, or ethical objections” to distributing the morning-after pill would not be required to do so. “Obviously, this is not a true representation of all the facts,” Giles adds.

There is another point of contention is this situation. One of the functions of the morning-after pill, which the state makes available to teens in Alabama without parental consent, is to prohibit a fertilized egg from implanting on the wall of a woman's uterus. Giles says in his eyes, that makes the morning-after pill an abortifacient.

But the state disagrees with Giles on that count as well. APDH officials say it “prevents” pregnancy rather than terminating it. Williams explains that the morning-after pill is not RU-486, a French drug that causes abortion, but a “high dose of regular birth-control pills” that prevents a woman from releasing an egg or a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus.

Giles insists the state is simply wrong. “We believe life begins at conception, and these pills serve as an abortifacient,” he says. “The morning-after pill policy broadens the Health Department's role from promoting pregnancy prevention to promoting pregnancy termination.”

Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt has written to Secretary Tommy Thompson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking for clarification on whether health clinics in Alabama receiving Title X funds are required to carry and distribute the morning-after pill. He reports hearing from constituents that clinic employees have been told not doing so jeopardizes the clinics' eligibility for those funds.

Aderhold also asks that his request be expedited in light of the reports of employees like Akles and Bell that they have been forced to either distribute the pills or face disciplinary action.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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