The Austin Chronicle

Lege Wrap-Up

Reproductive rights

June 3, 2005, News

Corte's So-Called Life

Among the bits of good news coming out of the 79th Legislature is word that San Antonio Republican Rep. Frank "The Fetus" Corte's latest attempt to define the moment at which life begins failed. His latest bid, HB 16, didn't even make it out of the House State Affairs Committee – a venue where his right-winged reproductive agenda routinely faces no real opposition. This time around, however, Corte sealed his own fate by leading committee members to believe that HB 16 – which sought to protect pharmacists of conscience (aka Christian pill counters) from prescribing contraceptive products that conflict with their religious beliefs – applied only to RU 486, a pharmaceutical abortifacient recently approved for prescription in the U.S. Of course, Corte didn't actually verbalize the deception, but he did allow the committee to believe that it was RU 486 he wanted to control, since he explicitly told the committee that he wasn't all that interested in allowing pharmacists to deny women their prescriptions for the so-called "morning after" pill – unlike RU 486, a form of emergency contraceptive that contains an elevated dosage of the hormones contained in traditional birth control pills.

It took Sarah Wheat from the Texas chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League to set the record straight, telling committee members that pharmacists in fact aren't authorized to dispense RU 486. The drug, she said, can only legally be administered by, and under the supervision of, a licensed physician. "So let me get this straight," said Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio. "Frank says he doesn't want to prevent emergency contraception or birth control, and you're telling me that current statutes say that pharmacists are not allowed to dispense [abortive medicines]. So, why are we here?" Good question. – Jordan Smith

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