Some Updates

I once thought that being on leave meant extra time to do things like blog. Now that I’m not teaching, suddenly 1001 other tasks (some dissertation-related, many not) fill my time. I’ve been meaning to update three things I’ve blogged about in the past month and now that it’s Friday night, I find that I have time.

First, emergency contraception. The mainstream press hasn’t had much to say on this issue, but to make a long story short, the FDA refused to make ED available over-the-counter despite a 24-3 recommendation that it do so. You can read about it here.

I don’t really understand how this happened. Well, wait a moment. Yes, I do. This administration’s reproductive health policy is controlled by the so-called “pro-life” lobby, which has intimidated the FDA into ignoring the recommendation of medical experts in this matter.

On another matter related to EC, the Texas pharmacist I blogged about below has been fired. I don’t usually rejoice when someone loses a job, but this pharmacist’s conduct was outrageous. “I went in the back room and briefly prayed about it,” said Gene Herr, who had worked for Eckerd for five years. “I actually called my pastor … and asked him what he thought about it.” The question now, I think, is whether or not Mr. Herr committed a HIPAA violation. As I understand it, the new Federal law does contain new rules regarding patient privacy. By calling his pastor and discussing a medical case with him, did he violate HIPAA even without mentioning the woman’s name? Interesting to think about.

Lastly, the UC-Berkeley Fulbright issue (see below). The compromise that has been reached–with the US Department of State reading applications and UC Berkeley (and possibly FedEx) would pay for them. To which I say, HUH?

This makes no sense for a number of reasons. UC-Berkeley is a public institution. If it had the funds to send fifteen graduate students abroad every year, it would do so and there would be fewer Berkeley applicants for the Fulbright. Second, why have the State Department read the apps? Other Fulbright apps will be vetted by the Department of Education. So Berkeley’s applicants are still not being counted in with other apps.

What I want to know is: where are California’s US Senators, Representatives, and Governor in this mess? The moment the controversy broke there should have been resolutions on the floors of the US House and US Senate supporting Berkeley and asking the Department of Education to make an exception this time. Arnie has had plenty of time to whine about gay marriage–where is his support for California’s students?

I’m beginning to think there’s a discrimination issue here. Berkeley is widely acknowledged to lean left politically; it is no surprise that Department of Education officials appointed by this President are trying as hard as they can to shut the Berkeley apps out.

Give the UC-Berkeley Fulbright Applicants a Chance

Last October, Federal Express failed to pick up UC-Berkeley’s graduate student Fulbright applications because of a software glitch. They were therefore one day late in arriving at the Department of Education, which has decided not to read the Berkeley applications.

I think this is grossly unfair to the students involved. Most universities, Harvard included, have a screening process for big grants like the Fulbright. Universities must nominate candidates. That means that students have to get all their materials to the university fellowship office by a date substantially in advance of the Fulbright’s late October deadline. The university then sends fully approved, nominated applications to the Department of Education. That means the university is responsible for mailing apps, not individual students.

The Department of Education has argued that UC-Berkeley should have used US Mail instead of FedEx, and would not acknowledge documentation from FedEx explaining that the error was theirs, not the university’s. All to no avail. Students who were nominated by Berkeley and had no control over the mailing of their apps are now being penalized by the Fulbright committee.

Now, I am as big an advocate as the next person for personal responsibility, but in this case students had already met their obligations and were expecting the university to forward their applications in an appropriate amount of time. The Department of Education can complain all it likes about UC-Berkeley’s responsibilities and FedEx’s responsibilities, but the students did what they were told to do. This situation is not of their making, and they should not be penalized for it.

Pharmacist Refuses to Fill EC Prescription for Rape Victim

A pharmacist at Eckherd Pharmacy in Denton, Texas refused to fill an EC prescription for a rape victim. My initial reaction to this naturally was, well, it’s Texas, what else do people expect? But then the outrage set in. How can a man refuse to fill a legally tendered prescription? Even more than that, what gives a pharmacist the right to sentence a woman to potentially carrying an unwanted pregnancy (especially one that is the result of rape?)

In this case the woman was able to fll the prescription at another pharmacy and Eckherd has disciplined the pharmacist. I’ll remind everyone, though, that this situation can be avoided in the future if the FDA approves over-the-counter EC.

You can read an article about the incident in the Boston Globe. I found out about it initially through a Planned Parenthood of North Texas press release, but interestingly, when I looked at websites for the Austin American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News, there were no articles. Hmmm…