Never mind V.P. Cheney for just a minute…. another Dick in office (Republican Rep. Dick Armey), along with his Republican cronies Joseph Pitts, Michael Bilirakis and Senator Judd Gregg, has been busy trying to circumscribe women's right to information and healthcare by drafting H.R. 4691, the deceptively nicknamed "Abortion Non-Discrimination Act." This moniker has the whiff of conservative rhetorical concoctions like "partial-birth abortion," which are at once misleading, politicized and legally vague. By a vote of 229 to 189, the House passed H.R. 4691 on September 25th. This dangerous bit of legislation proposes to allow people or entities (like medical providers, insurance companies or HMOs) the right to refuse to provide abortions, referrals or information about abortion services. Measures like these are often called "conscience" or "refusal" clauses, and in some states, for example, give pharmacists the option of refusing dispensation of prescriptions (read: birth control) on the basis of "moral" objections. Anti-choice groups like Pharmacists for Life are working to encourage pharmacists across the country to refuse to provide emergency contraception. It's hard to imagine being personally affected by the conservative pharmacists' crusade in Chicago--a Democratic stronghold with an Osco on every other block--but for a woman seeking emergency contraception in a rural community where drugstores are few and far between, one pharmacist's refusal could cost critical time. This is not to even mention the affront to her own conscience and human rights. Two years ago the Senate voted down a similar bill, but that's a small comfort in the current political climate. H.R. 4691 will make its next appearance at a House-Senate conference committee.
Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show “Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.