The Pill and the Pharmacist, the Degree and Divorce

Barefoot and pregnant (is best).

That seems to be the message being sent to women throughout the land by various conservative groups backing the right of pharmacists not to dispense the "morning after" pill.

Their argument is loosely framed around a ''freedom of choice'' right which would allow pharmacists to protect "their moral, religious, ethical ideas". This is a very slippery slope and easily extends that morality to the "pill" which is intended to prevent pregnancy altogether.

22 states have introduced "refusal laws," which allow pharmacists to refuse filling prescriptions because of personal beliefs. The states are: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Arkansas, Mississippi and South Dakota have already have passed refusal laws and Georgia has adopted a regulation allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions.

The effects of such laws, particularly in areas where pharmacies are scarce, places the religious beliefs of the pharmacist over a woman's legal rights. This could result in unwanted pregnancies that end in abortion, unwanted marriages that end in divorce, or single mother's having to essentially drop out of productive society because of the necessity to provide for a child on their own.

Setting aside the hypocrisy of Medicare and private insurance covering Viagra, one should consider this argument within the "big picture": the sanctity of the family unit and the interest that society has in keeping marriages together rather than encouraging "shotgun marriages" that can result from an unplanned pregnancy.

The statistic most often used in news media reports and campaign speeches is that 1 out of 2 marriages ends in divorce. However, recent research shows that the underlying formula used in the calculations is flawed because the people who are divorcing in any given year are not the same as those who are marrying.

Social scientists have looked at available data and used a different method to determine the divorce rate. They calculated how many people who have ever married subsequently divorced. That calculation indicates that the overall divorce rate has a high-end level of approximately 41 percent.

Furthermore, regardless of the method used, researchers say that the large majority of the drop in the overall divorce rate is caused by a much deeper decline in rates among college graduates. Dr. Steven P. Martin, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, calls that a "divorce divide" between those with and without college degrees.

The numbers indicate that divorce among women without undergraduate degrees has remained steady. Their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage is approximately 35 percent. Women holding college degrees are much less likely to divorce. Their divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has dropped to 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979.

It is difficult to argue with those numbers. It is even more difficult to say that women, given the freedom to pursue a higher education do not contribute mightily to the stability so sought for in continuing marriages (without divorce) preached so often by the right.

What is not difficult to say is that a young woman, denied the right or access to contraception, may quickly find herself dropping out of school, heading into a marriage likely to end in divorce, and ending up as second in line as a creditor (behind credit card companies thanks to the Bankruptcy Reform Act) once her "ex" files for bankruptcy and no longer pays child support.

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