Monday, February 25, 2008
On February 13, as reported here, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington (NPCW) announced the results of an investigation into Washington pharmacies not selling the so-called "morning after pill," also known as Plan B. They presented their findings as a crisis because 10% of drug stores in the state chose not to provide the potentially embryo-destroying pharmaceutical.
AIW spoke to NPCW's executive director, Karen Cooper, about their concerns.
Ms. Cooper initially claimed that the goal of her campaign is simply to ensure all pharmacies obey the new Board of Pharmacy rules “which say that pharmacists must provide this drug to any patient who asks for it."
Ms. Cooper appeared to be unaware of the fact that this rule was no longer in effect due to an injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton, on November 8 of last year, who declared it a violation of constitutional rights, and just reaffirmed last week. Such ignorance seems inexplicable since NPCW was involved in the appeal of the ruling.
Also, when pushed, Ms. Cooper admitted that their motives went beyond benign rule enforcement, since her group had actively lobbied for the creation of the unconstitutional rule in the first place. In fact, acting Governor Christine Gregoire appointed a former NPCW board member, Vandana Slatter, to the Board of Pharmacy last Fall prior to the finalization of the new rule.
Some have argued that it is hypocritical for an organization calling itself "Pro-Choice Washington" to be actively trying to coerce pharmacists, to take away their freedom to choose. Ms. Cooper described such views as "ridiculous".
"We don't see that as a contradiction at all. There's no analogy there whatsoever. One is a personal choice, the other is a retail choice." She declined to elaborate on the philosophical and historical underpinnings of this distinction.
Ms. Cooper said frictionless access to emergency contraception was such an important a cause for them "because of the importance of reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies."
But what interest does an abortion organization have in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies? Ms. Cooper laughed loudly (and somewhat nervously) at the question.
While hearing the question repeated, Ms. Cooper interrupted after the word 'abortion': "Listen, this isn't an abortion pill, it's a birth control pill," she asserted authoritatively. She repeated the point for emphasis, clearly irritated at this stage.
When asked if the medication works sometimes by preventing implantation of a human embryo, as stated for example by Dr. Bruce Carlson in "Human Embryology and Developmental Biology," Ms. Cooper claimed that "nobody knows," sounding decidedly less authoritative. "It might work that way," she admitted when pushed.
"Abortion is a Very Hard Thing For Women"
Returning to the previous question, AIW pressed for an answer to why an abortion group would be so determined to prevent unplanned pregnancies to the point that it would try to take away choices from pharmacists in the process – especially for a group which believes abortion should be legal through all nine months of pregnancy, by any procedure, for any reason, at any age, without delay, at taxpayers' expense, and without apology.
This was met with a long silence, followed by a nervous confession that "abortion is a very hard thing for women emotionally", quickly adding "a very hard decision."
Repeatedly during the interview Ms. Cooper tried to end the phone call insisting that there were people waiting for her in a meeting. It was clear these were not questions she was keen on answering. Early in the interview she became hostile and argumentative. After responding to this last question, clearly uncomfortable, she hung up.
As a result, we were unable to discover what it is about abortion that makes it such a difficult decision for women. If it's just the removal of a blob of tissue, why should it be so hard?
We were also unable to ask her what data NARAL is relying on in its unstated but fundamental assumption that emergency contraception reduces the rate of unplanned pregnancies. In a study published January 2007 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, a review of 23 studies discovered that there hasn't been a single study anywhere in the world showing a correlation between availability or use of emergency contraception and reduced pregnancy or abortion rates.
Indeed, as reported here and here, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington has gone from selling 0 EC kits per year to selling a staggering 120,000, but during this time the number of abortions performed by them has risen 11% per year. We would have liked to have asked Ms. Cooper if she was completely unaware of all scholarship on this matter, or if rather her organization was being abjectly dishonest. (For more on PP of WW see our archive of articles here.)
Finally, if these pills don’t reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and may even increase it, and if this group actually considers abortion as morally inconsequential as a tonsillectomy, what is their true motivation in this campaign?
More importantly, if Karen Cooper and NARAL acknowledge that abortion is a very difficult event for women, why is this the first we’ve ever heard this admission from them? What makes it so difficult? Why have they never mentioned any of the specific difficulties involved? Why can’t one find anything about this on their website? And why do they oppose every single possible regulation designed to protect women at such a vulnerable and difficult time from making the wrong decision?
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Brad Klippert is challenging incumbent Shirley Hankins for the Republican nomination in the 8th District for the state House of Representatives. Brad ran in the primary against self-described "pro-choice" Republican candidate Mike McGavick for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
I first met Brad when he called to ask me how he could let voters know that he was 100% pro-life, no exceptions. He wants every child and mother protected from abortion.
I ran into him at the It's About Life Conference over the weekend and was fortunate to be able to have lunch with him. When he told me he was running I could barely stay in my seat. I called Michelle McIntyre at Life of the Party as soon as I could.
His opponent Shirley Hankins is, according to this liberal blog and commenter, "solidly pro-choice and has supported all of the domestic partnership legislation..." In other words, she's a Democrat. She's also a board member and sponsor of the pro-abortion group Washington Mainstream Republicans. As we've pointed out on this blog before, there is nothing "mainstream" about killing children.
Please help support Brad's candidacy. Brad is an honest man who knows the difference between serving the public and killing the public.
Friday, February 15, 2008
And a few observations from those in the courtroom today:
Smart man. These are points we have been arguing all along. Let us also remind everybody that no pharmacist wants to deny patients legitimate health care. Pharmacists want the right to be able to consult and converse with their patients about any drug the patient is taking and at the same time don't want to be forced to give out a drug that may kill a tiny embryo before it has a chance to implant.
The judge said that the rule seemed to be motivated by something other than sincere concern for access to medication;
He said that the rule was clearly targeting opponents to Plan B and not medications in general (as asserted by the Defendants);
He remarked that his bailiff was battling cancer and had to go to three pharmacies before he was able to get his prescription filled and asked if the BOP would consider this a violation of the rule.
Award for worst reporting on this story goes to...the AP and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. No surprise there. See how many errors and instances of bias reporting you can spot.
Update 2/21/08 from another courtroom observer: One other thing he said (and I hope the press takes note) is that he is absolutely amazed that the coverage of this case never mentions the Constitution. And...To those who say that pharmacists who don’t want to dispense Plan B should find another profession, I say: Citizens who disagree with the US Constitution should find another country which does not protect religious freedom. China, Cuba, and N. Korea come to mind, but there are many others.
Now the Washington State Pharmacy Association has issued a statement in response to NARAL's "survey".
Quite frankly, NARAL and Barr Labs wouldn't have gotten as far as they have in pushing Plan B in this state and stiffling the First Amendment Rights of our pharmacists if the WSPA hadn't gotten into bed with them in the first place. So yes, I have a beef with the WSPA though I appreciate their statement slamming NARAL. WSPA was stupid if they thought they could partner with NARAL (these people are in the baby killing business, folks) to push an immoral and unhealthy drug (it's not medicine) in this state and not have people get hurt.
The WSPA should not be "committed to increasing patient access to emergency contraception" and should be fighting tooth and nail against NARAL’s claim that Plan B is somehow the equivalent of a blood transfusion.
Adding insult to injury, the WSPA continues to promote the idea that this drug is helping to prevent abortions. What poppycock!
In regard to this particular "survey", it is irrelevant if the "lack of access" is 10% or 100% -- people shouldn't be forced to do anything against their will or that violates their conscience. The so-called law the Board of Pharmacy passed essentially makes moral thoughts and actions a crime. Is that the kind of country you want to live in?
So thank you WSPA for standing up to the abortion lobby but please take it to the next step and cease your unholy alliance with an industry that is hurting women, men, children, and families.
Here's the full statement from WSPA:
The Washington State Pharmacy Association is appalled by the sloppy data collection process and inaccurate conclusions about pharmacists reached in NARAL’s 2008 Emergency Contraception Access Project Report.
The data NARAL released is littered with errors, out-of-date information and inaccuracies, including:
· The report marked about 30 pharmacy locations two different colored flags, indicating that they both stock Plan B and do not stock Plan B.
· Some pharmacies listed are out-of- business or have changed ownership.
· Since the report was released, some pharmacies’ flags have changed color.
· Many pharmacies listed as not stocking Plan B have not had any patient demand for the medication but would stock it if their patients asked for it.
· Some pharmacies were assumed to be an access risk because they employ a pharmacist who refuses to dispense it. But these pharmacies staff multiple pharmacists per shift to ensure their patients receive their medications.
· We have confirmed many pharmacies that were reported as not stocking Plan B actually do so.
WSPA is committed to increasing patient access to emergency contraception and does not dispute NARAL’s claim that women should be able to access their medications. If NARAL wanted to help patients gain access, they would work with healthcare providers to identify and promote opportunities to access emergency contraception. Instead NARAL has chosen to broadcast inaccurate survey results which erroneously paints a picture of an access crisis that simply does not exist.
NARAL’s recent survey results are an assault on the credibility of hundreds of Washington’s pharmacists. NARAL’s irresponsible accusations erode the patient-pharmacist relationship that is an integral part of the healthcare system. Any disruption of this relationship puts patients at risk. If even one patient hesitates to seek care from a pharmacy because of these false reports, NARAL has done great harm.
Jeff Rochon, Pharm.D.
Director of Professional Development
Washington State Pharmacy Association
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Longview Planned Parenthood Closed for Good; Asking for too Much Money, Un-Wanted Services Says Commissioner
Pro-lifers were excited last February when they found out that Planned Parenthood of Western Washington (PPWW) had decided to shutter their clinic in Longview. But cheer turned to concern when it was later revealed, first in March, then again in July, that the Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners was in negotiations with PPWW to reopen the clinic, and was considering paying their rent, as well as providing other financial sweeteners from their tax-funded treasury.
AIW can now reveal, however, that all negotiations with PPWW and Cowlitz County are dead, and the county has severed all dealings with the state’s largest abortion chain. Commissioner Kathleen Johnson told AIW that there is now no PPWW office in Longview, the county gives no money to PPWW, and there is no relationship of any sort between Cowlitz County and the abortion provider.
It appears that what happened, according to the Commissioner, was that PPWW kept asking for more and more money from the county, reportedly up to $10,000 per year, and then they insisted on offering their high-margin services which the county wasn’t interested in, e.g., birth control, emergency contraception. (As reported on this blog, PPWW makes millions of dollars every year and most of its profits from Take Charge clients and sales of the “Plan B” morning after pill.)
The county, on the other hand, is dealing with an STD outbreak, and high teen pregnancy rates (7th highest in the state), and was looking for a health care partner willing to focus its efforts on those problems. Despite the public image it has so successfully cultivated, PPWW was not sufficiently interested in providing services with that focus, said Commissioner Johnson. She also said they wanted a provider which would care for pregnant women the traditional way, i.e., helping both patients, the mother and the unborn child. As PPWW spokesman Brian Cutler told us in a previous interview, “if a woman plans to keep her baby, she’s probably not going to come to Planned Parenthood.”
AIW spoke with Mr. Cutler about the Longview clinic negotiations. When asked if PPWW was only interested in providing high margin services, and not those being asked for by the community, he said it was “ridiculous, ludicrous.”
“Listen,” he added, “I don’t know where you got this idea that we’re in this to make money. We are a non-profit, a 501c3.” He didn’t, however, dispute the details of the charge.
Show Me The Money
One of the more striking elements of the entire situation has been PPWW’s undisputed claim from the start that it couldn’t afford to keep the Longview clinic open, when it has grown its annual revenue from close to $17 million per year in 2000, to over $32 million now, with $36 million in the bank.
PPWW’s 2006 Annual Report shows a profit of over $1 million on revenue of over $37 million. Their tax return for the previous year showed a $3.3 million operating profit. Yet they were still demanding Cowlitz County cough up first $400/month in rent (or about $5,000 per year), and then $10,000/year.
Christine Charbonneau, president of PPWW, wrote a guest column in the Longview Daily News, dated March 4, 2007, titled “PP forced into tough decision.” In the piece, she explicitly claimed that they had no choice to close the clinic, because they were “unable” to absorb the costs, and even had the temerity to use the opportunity to urge readers to lobby the state to provide PPWW with even more taxpayers’ money.
I asked Mr. Cutler if PPWW had lied to Cowlitz County about its finances.
That was followed by a full one minute silence. Finally he said: “I’m sure people above me in the organization made a careful, well-considered decision. I don’t know.”
(He subsequently explained via email that some of the organization’s $36 million in assets are endowments which are restricted by “by-laws” in how they can be used, though the interest can be used for operations, and it can be and has been borrowed against for clinic construction.)
I also asked about two “inaccuracies” on the the PPWW Longview webpage. First, it still says that it is “temporarily” closed, even though negotiations officially ended by November 2007. Secondly, and more alarming, the webpage says that the Longview clinic offers “Abortion Services”.
I inquired about a year ago whether this was true. The official response from PPWW was that this was a mistake and would be remedied shortly, with gratitude expressed for bringing the error to their attention. I pointed out to Mr. Cutler that PPWW makes much of providing accurate information to its clients, but he responded to both issues that it was simply an innocent mistake and that the organization hadn’t gotten around to updating the page yet.
Interestingly, the first bullet point in PPWW’s 2005 Annual Report was that they had spent thousands of dollars on a new high-tech internet portal which, they bragged, “now gives important, real-time information to more unduplicated patients than the nearly 850 health centers around the country combined.”
Treating the STDs Outbreak
When the Longview clinic closed, PPWW spokesmen suggested this would be a tremendous deficit for the area because of the STD problem. Cowlitz Commissioners George Raiter and Axel Swanson publicly concurred. I asked Mr. Cutler if he could provide any studies or research to back up this assumption, that PPWW’s presence in a community was correlated with declining rates of STDs.
Nothing came immediately to mind, but he did send me via email some statistics which he said showed STD rates going down during the Clinton Administration and up during the Bush era, which has emphasized abstinence. Interestingly, this data showed gonorrhea rates in Cowlitz County jumping from about 15 cases per 100,000 in 2003 to 230 in 2006. Chlamydia rates followed a similar trend. PPWW opened its Longview clinic in 2003.
Finding an Alternative to Drive-By Women’s Health Care
AIW also spoke with Carlos Carreon, director of the Cowlitz County Public Health Department. Mr. Carreon was directly involved in most of the direct negotiations with PPWW last year. While reluctant to speak to the more controversial elements which Commissioner Johnson cited, Mr. Carreon did say that after months of ultimately fruitless discussions with PPWW, it just struck him that there was a much better way to provide residents with high quality health care.
“It was sort of an ‘Oh-duh’ moment,” he said frankly. “That’s not an official health policy term,” he added self-deprecatingly. Instead of trying so hard to fit a square peg in a round hole, he realized it would make far more sense to partner with the Family Health Center, a local non-profit health care provider with full-time M.D’s and R.N’s to serve as the clients’ primary care providers and able to establish a long-term medical relationship.
This contrasts with PPWW’s clinic which would parachute an R.N. once a week from upstate to walk-in clients without any long-term relationship. (Finding a local R.N. willing to work full-time for Planned Parenthood was proving impossible.) “This was just a superior model of care,” he explained.
Mr. Carreon noted that they still don’t have a handle on the source of the STD outbreak, including whether or not it is localized to a certain community, like the prison population, and until they have determined the cause, it’s premature to start talking about the correct cure. For instance, a walk-in PP clinic is not going to have a significant impact on a prison-based STD problem.
In contrast, PPWW’s Brian Cutler told AIW that one of the major reasons for the failure of negotiations with the county was political pressure. “Cowlitz County is a very conservative part of our state,” he said, even though the county voted 56%-40% for Maria Cantwell over Mike McGavick in 2006. “While some of the county commissioners supported our presence in Longview, significant political pressure was applied to keep the doors of our health center there from re-opening.”
Commissioner Johnson strongly disputed this idea. “That’s a very interesting comment,” she told AIW. “The issue for us was always: how could we get the best contract for the services needed in this county (reducing STDs and caring for pregnant mothers). Planned Parenthood was not willing to provide the services we wanted.” She added that the only “political pressure” they ever received was a single citizen who occasionally turned up at council meetings (Jerry Ross) and some pro-life form letters “from Texas”.
“We are just happy that the citizens of Cowlitz County are in some way getting the services they need,” concluded Mr. Cutler.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Emergency Contraception Access Update
NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon had our seventh pharmacist training on November 15, 2007 in Salem. More than 50 pharmacists attended the course, which was facilitated by Donald Downing, professor of pharmacy at the University of Washington. His presentation covered the details of what emergency contraception (EC) is, why EC is necessary, and how the medication works from a clinical perspective. More than 350 pharmacists have now taken part in these EC trainings since the beginning of 2007. The EC training module we created is being replicated in Washington and North Carolina. We are proud of this training program and look forward to providing more trainings in the future.
Don Downing continues his work, lining his pockets with money from the abortion industry, claiming all the while that he's helping to reduce the abortion rate.
For more on Don Downing see here.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
40 Days for Life - Spring 2008
This Lenten season six communities around the state are holding 40 Days for Life campaigns as part of the National Campaign that started on February 6th. I hope that you will each take the time to join in prayer, fasting, vigil and outreach this Lent!
Issaquah - website - email
Kitsap - website - email
Bellingham - website - email
Tacoma - website - email
Olympia - website - email
Spokane - website - emailFor more information on any of these locations, please checkout their websites or visit the national website to find out more about 40 Days for Life
Make one of these campaigns part of your Lenten tradition this year
Operation Rolling Thunder - more information - website
This is a prayer movement that is focused on bringing constant prayer (sound familiar?) to the churches around our state. Their kickoff is at Seattle Revival Center from Feb 7-10 and one of the intentions of this campaign is the pro-life movement. There's something going on with this and I don't believe in coincidences. I'll be speaking during their Saturday events. I am hoping we will all find a good deal of synergy between these two movements. Please consider participating in this prayer movement this lent as a means to grow both the pro-life as well as the spiritual community in the Seattle area.
Ongoing Prayer on Thursdays and Saturdays in the U-District
Can't make it out to one of the six 40 Days locations with any regularity but you still want to be more involved? Good news! We're still going out to the clinic in the U-District (on 9th Ave at 45th St.) every Thursday from 6am-Noon and on Saturdays after the 8AM Mass at Blessed Sacrament.
In a statement by John Ladenberg, his democratic opponent, attacking McKenna, what appeared to be an insult to came across as a compliment.
What struck me about the dispute was its subtle reminder of something fired former US Federal Attorney John McKay said last May at a the Washington Mainstream Republican's annual conference.
"What we've done is take issues like gay marriage and rubbed people's noses in it. ... We raise abortion up on the flagpole every single time to create dissension, to create some line that has nothing to do with what Republicans are about. We should accept people into the party who have divergent views, on immigration, on gay marriage."Raise abortion up on the flagpole. Raise abortion up on the flagpole.
When I read that statement originally I pondered that phrase. What was he talking about? I never did figure it out but now I think I know. What he was alluding to, whether he knew it or not, was "waving the bloody shirt". The imagery and circumstances are, of course, inverted which would be typical in an age when good is bad and bad is good, but it kind of works in this instance.
Now we get to watch McKenna and Laudenberg see who can wave the biggest, bloodiest shirt.
Friday, February 01, 2008
As anyone who has followed local politics here knows, the King County politicians, even the Aftican American ones could care less about the helpless, voiceless black children who are slaughtered in the County almost every day of the year. Individual abortionists and the abortion lobby are part of the local elite and dictate that a favorable attitude toward abortion must be advanced by anyone seeking and holding public office. I've never heard a public complaint from any public official that Planned Parenthood is too focused on minority neighborhoods.
Local pro-lifer Djana Milton lays it all out --
What is the value of a baby's life in 2007 America? As far as the NAACP is concerned, it is apparently not worth much. Each of us has a question that we must examine on our own, that being, "How much am I willing to not spend, in order to increase the value of life and advance it's cause?" However personal such an answer may be, this I know: Burke was right. Evil does prevail when good men do nothing.
At this time of year, it is difficult not to recall that recent, yet momentous struggle for black civil rights and the man who helped re-awaken America to its promise of justice for all. Dr. King once remarked, "We have waited more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights."
It has now been 380 years. Some still wait.