Is birth control next?

“The lady came over to the window and said, ‘I’m so sorry I’m not going to be able to fill your prescription.’ I said, ‘Is there something wrong with the prescription?’ And she said, ‘No, I just personally do not believe in birth control.’”

Julee Lacey of North Richland, Texas, told NBC her conversation with a CVS pharmacist, who refused to fill her prescription for birth control. It sounds outrageous, but many fear it will be the wave of the future if George W. Bush and his congressional and judicial pals aren’t stopped in their all-out drive to dismantle Roe v. Wade and strip women of their most precious right, control of their own bodies.

Pharmacists playing doctor may be shocking but what is just plain scary to many is the brazen, bullying – and unconstitutional – way the Bush administration is trampling on democratic rights.

In April 2001 President Bush stressed “the right of every American to have confidence that his or her personal medical records will remain private.” That was then.

This is now: “Patients no longer possess a reasonable expectation that their histories will remain completely confidential,” according to the Department of Justice in a 2004 legal brief.

On Nov. 5, 2003, President Bush signed into law the first-ever federal ban on abortion. He did this despite the fact the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2000 had ruled that similar late-term abortion bans were unconstitutional.

Pro-choice organizations and the ACLU filed suit in federal courts in San Francisco, New York and Lincoln, Neb., maintaining that the ban on safe abortion procedures violates the Constitution and jeopardizes women’s health. The judge in each case issued a temporary restraining order against the law.

That’s when Attorney General John Ashcroft and the DOJ stepped in to demand the medical records of some 900 women who had abortions in clinics around the country. Medical personnel refused to comply and rulings in the case expose the government’s ploy as nothing more than intimidation.

In Northwestern Memorial Hospital v. Ashcroft, the judge ruled against Ashcroft, stating that “the government seeks these records on the possibility that it may find something [useful]” to impeach the credibility of a pro-choice expert witness.

The government appealed but the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit backed the original judge. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner wrote that “the government’s response ... remained vague to the point of being evasive.” In other words, just give us the records and don’t ask why.

The government also argued that since it is seeking a “limited” number of records and would not use patient names, compliance wouldn’t be a problem for the hospital or the patient. The court called that “unrealistic and incomplete,” noting that the natural sensitivity people feel about the disclosure of their medical records “is amplified when the records are of a procedure that Congress has now declared a crime.”

While Ashcroft claimed that the women’s names would not be used “the government expressly reserved the right, at a later date, to seek the identity of the patients whose records are produced,” court documents stated.

The decisions from the three lawsuits should be handed down late this summer. The restraining orders currently in effect “should stay in place through the appeals process,” Ellen Sweet, communications director for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a plaintiff in the case before the Nebraska federal court, told the World. Whatever the verdict, there will be an appeal, she said.

Since 1995, states have enacted 380 bills restricting a woman’s right to choose. The Republican-controlled Congress has relentlessly fought to roll back reproductive rights. The Supreme Court has a razor-thin majority protecting the right to choose.

“Those are the sober facts,” NARAL Pro-Choice America stated in an appeal for the April 25 March for Women’s Lives.

“This march is a vital step in support of women, in support of reproductive freedom, and in support of our individual liberties,” said Sue Wagner, executive director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Michigan. “Our rights are under attack like never before. Roe v. Wade is on life support and the policymakers in the nation’s capital must be aware of how many people agree with having a choice.”

The author can be reached at crummel@pww.org.click here for Spanish text