Alabama Pro-Life Nurses Don’t Have to Distribute Morning After Pills

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 3, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alabama Pro-Life Nurses Don’t Have to Distribute Morning After Pills

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
August 3, 2004

Montgomery, AL ( — The Bush administration has informed the Alabama Department of Public Health that its clinics are not required to distribute the so-called morning after pill after several nurses resigned over a mandate requiring them to offer the drug.

Pro-life Alabama Congressman Robert Aderholt (R) had asked U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to clarify a mandate requiring clinics receiving state funding to distribute the morning after pill.

Thompson replied that while the clinics are expected to offer a "broad range" of contraceptives, state clinics are not required to distribute the morning after pill, which the FDA denied over-the-counter status to earlier this year.

The nurses resigned because they believe the pills sometimes work as an abortion drug and are dangerous for teenagers to use.

The Alabama Department of Public Health, will continue to offer the pills, despite being released from the requirement to do so, according to Dr. Thomas Miller, director of the bureau of family health services at the department.

"It’s excellent public health policy," Miller said. "We have a rock-solid reason to do it. It’s a good thing to do for the low-income women of this state. Other women already have access to it."

Miller said 11 nurses have resigned from their positions at state clinics due to moral objections about being required to distribute the pills, and that he has received approximately 50 requests for transfers from other employees who do not want to be involved in distribution.

According to the Birmingham News, Miller has granted at least 25 such requests.

Lenita Ackles, former Alabama Department of Public Health nursing supervisor for Calhoun, resigned in March after 13 years with the Department, after she was told a federal mandate required all health clinics receiving federal funding had to provide the pills.

"Initially, [the State Department] wanted me to counsel and then prescribe emergency contraception," Ackles told the Crimson White, the University of Alabama’s newspaper. "I prayed about the situation and I told them that I did not feel comfortable with prescribing the pills since I am a strict Christian. I believe that God has plan for the life of a child when the egg and sperm unite."

Ackles said she was pressured into prescribing the medication, and was not given an option to choose not to distribute the morning after pills.

"I asked them what choices I had and they told me that I would either have to write up the other people who refused to prescribe the pills or be written up myself," Ackles said. "I didn’t want to be written up, so I resigned."

Ackles added that the policy for distributing the pills had dangerous flaws.

There are a few more points of the policy that worry Ackles.

"Under the current system, a 14-year-old girl can get her hands on it [EC] without her parents’ permission," Ackles explained. "Also, there are no restrictions for the number of times that you can get EC and that can be very dangerous."