Sunday, February 06, 2005

So Many Bills, So Little Time

Feministing finds an article, and asks "What's up in Georgia?"

Newly empowered Republicans in the Georgia Legislature are setting their sights on another anti-abortion measure.

Under a bill filed Thursday by freshman Sen. Jim Whitehead (R-Evans), pharmacists who oppose abortion on "moral or religious" grounds and who refuse to dispense emergency contraceptive drugs would be immune from lawsuits or disciplinary action by employers.

Emergency contraceptives, sold in the United States under the name Plan B, can prevent a pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. The drug works as birth control pills do, by preventing ovulation, or fertilization and implantation of an egg.

But some pharmacists throughout the nation have refused to dispense the medication because they believe it amounts to abortion. Last year in Texas, an Eckerd drugstore fired a pharmacist for refusing to sell Plan B to a rape victim. Whitehead said some pharmacists in his Augusta-area district asked him to push the legislation.

"We're just trying to protect some pharmacists who feel the way we do as far as having to issue the contraceptive pill — that have Christian values that want to stand up against abortion," Whitehead said.

Pharmacists in Georgia already may refuse to fill a prescription on any grounds, said Flynn Warren, a University of Georgia professor and chairman of the Georgia Pharmacy Association's board. But pharmacists should give the prescription back to the patient and offer suggestions on how to get it filled elsewhere, Warren said.

Fred Vincy comments on the article, and notices a real gem (emphasis mine):

Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) is one of the bill's co-sponsors.

Whitehead and Johnson said in interviews Thursday they had concerns about the drug RU486, which causes abortion once a pregnancy is confirmed. The bill, however, does not specify that drug by name; it refers to "emergency contraceptive" drugs.

A Planned Parenthood fact sheet on the drugs notes that there is "considerable public confusion" over the difference between emergency contraception provided by Plan B and medical abortion provided by RU486. Reis said RU486 was administered by abortion providers, not pharmacists.

"The bill is not intended to prevent pharmacists from providing contraception, only from participating in an abortion," said Johnson, who acknowledged he was not clear on precisely how either drug worked.*

I read the article and become inspired by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson!

I decide I must write (off the top of my head, without consulting any sources) the protocol for performing the most complex type of surgery there is, one totally outside my area of expertise.

I also decide to grant as many interviews as possible and acknowledge I'm not clear on precisely how the procedure is performed.

I then realize, just in the nick of time, that I'm not actually qualified to emulate Johnson. Unlike him, I at least have an understanding of the basics of a surgical procedure. I am also, at least minimally, responsible--I wouldn't write about, let alone perform, a surgical procedure I'm not familiar with. But then again, I'm not an elected official.

It's becoming clear that, when it comes to politicians, the less you know, the more you can legislate.

I know of at least three bills--HB 1677, HB 1807, and HB 2088 (.pdf)--either stricken from docket, tabled [check out my newly acquired poli lingo!], or in need of revision simply because the sponsor's lack of familiarity with the fundamentals of the bills rendered them irretrievably flawed.

One way to address this problem, and motivate our beloved politicians to, at a minimum, understand what they're proposing, before the urge to legislate strikes: find out the costs associated with drafting a particular bill. [Is there a standard formula used? Something like: it costs the taxpayers x for a one page bill to be drafted, proposed, acted on, etc.?] Then deduct that amount from the politician's salary.

Just being a politician shouldn't be justification enough for being incompetent and irresponsible.

*Briefly: Plan B is a birth control method in the Emergency Contraception (EC) group; it's a hormone, a progestin (a synthetic progesterone, just like the one used in the regular birth control pill). It has the same mechanism of action as the Pill, but a different dosage, and regimen. Mifepristone (Mifeprex) [RU-486] is an antiprogesterone. Depending on the mechanism of action, dosage and regimen, it's either a birth control method in the EC group, or an abortifacient, in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy group.


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