Across the country, women’s ability to access care is becoming less and less secure.
While Brittany may have been aware of the “refusal clause” evoked by the pharmacist, the pharmacist’s refusal exacerbated what was already a difficult situation. Brittany said, “The job of knowing what I need or don’t need is between my doctor and myself. … (The pharmacist) didn’t know the whole story and didn’t need to know the whole story. Who was she to judge me on what I needed? … And if this happened to me, who else has this happened to?”
Brittany is right. Countless women in our state have been denied health care they need because of the interference of others. What the pharmacist did is perfectly legal, according to state law and state pharmacy regulations. And what’s worse, if the Georgia Legislature has its way, this is only the beginning. This session, building on an existing framework of “religious refusal” policies and the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case, our Legislature considered a bill that would have legalized discrimination.
The proposed “religious liberty” legislation is similar to recently enacted laws in Indiana and Arkansas that have captivated the nation’s attention and launched an unprecedented backlash. Not only were everyday voters enraged by these unnecessary and offensive laws, corporations also took a stand against institutionalized bigotry.
While some of the recently debated laws are specifically targeted at LGBT communities, Brittany’s case illustrates that refusal policies hurt all people, including women. This time, the Georgia Legislature backed off, but we know the bill will be revived in the next session. Women are at risk of having health care services denied in their time of need.
What happened to Brittany could happen to anyone: your sister, your daughter, your wife, your best friend or maybe even you. We must fight to ensure all people have access to the care they need from health providers they trust. No woman should be denied health care for political reasons. We all deserve better.
Dr. Janet Lefkowitz is an OB-GYN and board member of Planned Parenthood Southeast in Atlanta.