Who gave doctors and pharmacists the right to make reproductive choices for women? Obviously they did it themselves, when they began refusing to prescribe or dispense prescriptions for birth control pills, and other hormonal contraceptives, claiming moral or religious beliefs as the reason.

Several stories of women being denied birth control pills by doctors and pharmacists have made news headlines and are sparking more than a little controversy. Many pro-choice advocates, myself included, believe health care professionals, whether they work in a doctors office or a pharmacy, do not have the right to deny contraception to women based on personal beliefs. Doctors and pharmacists on the pro-life side argue that they should not be forced or required to give patients or customers a medication or product that they feel "ends a potential life."

The concern for pro-choice advocates is whether such a reason is truly legitimate or whether it is an attempt by the Religious Right to make it more difficult for women, particularly unmarried young women, to obtain hormonal contraception. Since the Pill, the new skin Patch, and the vaginal ring generally have higher success percentages for preventing pregnancy than the "faith based" methods like Natural Family Planning, supported by the Catholic Church, one has to wonder. Especially since the conservative religions like Catholicism have long been opposed to most forms of contraception.

Although most pro-life groups only target abortion rights to be made illegal, and have been doing so since Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, there are some ultra-right groups that would like to see all forms of contraception legally banned as well. These groups include Quiverfull, an ultra-conservative Christian sect that opposes even voluntary sterilization, believing that all sex activity should come with the "responsibility" of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood, and that sex should not be indulged in for the solitary purpose of pleasure.

But Quiverfull is not the only group that opposes contraception. The American Family Association, headed by Rev. Mark H. Creech, is another. In an article that appeared in the AFA Publication Agape Press News, Creech ended his diatribe against abortion and birth control with the following statements:

"Let it suffice to say contraception and abortion are the twin-children of a Medusa-like god with vipers on her head that represent a self-centered, anti-child, materialistic, non-theistic quality-of-life mentality that God will not indefinitely suffer as a rival.

I believe Matt Trewhella, pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, aptly summarized the argument: "We have no God-given right to manipulate God's design for marriage by using birth control. As long as we continue to make 'possessions' and 'self' our god, and as long as we continue to look at children as a diaper bill rather than a blessing, we will never see the Church act in mass against baby-murder."

How Rev. Creech equates contraception with "baby murder" is anyones guess, since responsible use of contraception prevents pregnancy, and by extension, abortion. But it doesnt take a genius to see that the Rev. Creechs agenda is to get rid of contraception altogether, since he and Rev. Trewhella believe it "manipulates Gods design for marriage." Which, in their opinion, seems to focus solely on procreation. What he and other evangelical Christians continuously fail to acknowledge, however, is that the United States is a secular country, and is not dominated by Christianity or any other religion. Which means that not every American citizen shares his anti-contraception beliefs, and should not be denied contraceptive methods simply because he or any other Religious Right leader opposes them.

With both sides not giving an inch of ground, one has to ask if there is any "right" answer to this dilemma. Both sides of the contraception issue believe theirs is the right one, which leaves everyone with the proverbial stalemate. However, there is a way to help avoid situations where a woman is denied contraception by her regular pharmacist and is forced to seek another who will give her the birth control method she wants. Ironically, it is Pharmacists For Life International that has provided such an alternative; a list of "Pro Life" Pharmacies. At the present time, it is a short one. Anyone who wants to get their prescriptions for oral or other hormonal contraceptives filled only has to visit the P.F.L.I. web site to know which drug stores not to patronize.

Of course, the critics will no doubt have plenty to say about attempts by pro-choice consumers to boycott pro-life pharmacies. Whatever verbal ammunition they have in response, I say bring it on. If Pharmacists For Life insists on maintaining their right to refuse contraception to women based on their moral or religious beliefs, we can exercise our right to refuse doing business with them. But honestly, I fail to see what theyd have to complain about. Knowing which pharmacies are pro-life saves women the hassle of making a wasted trip to an establishment that refuses to provide the contraceptives they want, and saves pharmacies on the list from being on the receiving end of many angry complaints. A win-win situation if I ever saw one.