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Access To Legal Pharmaceuticals Act

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney

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Mr. Speaker, today, along with my Republican colleague, Christopher Shays, and my Democratic colleagues, Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the House and Senator Lautenberg in the Senate, I am introducing the Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act, which will ensure that a woman's access to birth control cannot be denied by pharmacists who have personal objections to certain legal prescriptions.

A disturbing trend has recently erupted in drug stores across the nation: some pharmacists are refusing to fill women's prescriptions for legal contraception. It's happening everywhere: in small towns and large cities, in the north and the south. And it's happening to all women, whether they are young or old, married or single, with children or without. In some cases, the pharmacists are refusing to tell women where they can fill the prescription; in others, they are refusing to return the prescription paper back to the women. These women are frequently ridiculed and lectured by these pharmacists about their choice to use birth control pills.

It is incomprehensible that in the 21st century, we are living in a time where women are having to fight for their right to obtain birth control pills. Something must be done so that this assault on privacy does not continue to invade the bedrooms of American women. The Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act, ALPhA, protects an individual's access to legal contraception. It requires a pharmacy to ensure that if a pharmacist has a personal objection to filling a legal prescription for a drug or device, the pharmacy will ensure that the prescription is filled without delay by another pharmacist who does not have a personal objection. This act also ensures that if a prescription drug is not in stock, and it is a type of drug that the pharmacy routinely carries, such a drug will be ordered without delay.

A November 2004 poll conducted by CBS and the New York Times indicated that 8 out of 10 Americans believe that pharmacists should not be permitted to refuse to dispense birth control pills. This opinion was strong despite party affiliation--85 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Republicans polled squarely opposed pharmacist refusals. The Access to Legal Pharmaceuticals Act reiterates the beliefs of the majority of Americans and the principles of our Constitution: that women have a fundamental right of access to birth control.