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Prescriptions for Prostitutes

By Dr. Sujatha Prabhakaran

Keep repeating statements that are completely nonsensical, and eventually to some they become true.  This is especially the case if we hear a rumor from more than one source we perceive as reliable.  Think that’s not true, then maybe you don’t remember death panels. To some, the idea of death panel was so incredulous, they leant no credence to the possibility that this rumor (or lie, depending on how your read it) might pick up steam.  But so willing are some to believe extreme ideas, that this rumor quickly picked up steam and threatened not only the provision itself but the entire Affordable Care Act.   It is also damaging to the doctor -patient relationship, because it gave credence to the idea that people might not be able to trust their doctors, because who knows what their true motives might be.  

And now we might be seeing the same pattern in statements about contraceptive users and prescribers.  Some pretty incredulous things have been said in the last few weeks.   But they seem so far off in left field, it can be hard to believe such statements could really gain traction.  For example, when we heard Rick Santorum say that contraception is wrong, we could dismiss it as an opinion from someone outside the mainstream.  When over 90% of women use contraceptives, who would give any credence to the idea that contraception is wrong, right?  But then Rush Limbaugh thought it acceptable to say out loud that an educated young woman who advocated for coverage of contraceptives is a slut and a prostitute.   And now, Timothy Dolan says “Now we hear there’s a right to sterilization, abortion and chemical contraceptives. I suppose there might be a doctor who would say to a man who’s suffering some type of sexual dysfunction, ‘You ought to visit a prostitute to help you.’ ” Again, a statement that threatens the trust people have in physicians by basically saying that its not a big reach for physicians who prescribe contraceptives to be willing to recommend a prostitute as treatment.    

We need to be obvious in our opposition to these statements.  Even though they seem so ridiculous it is hard to believe they are a threat, if they keep being repeated there are some who will believe them.  And this will threaten the progress we are making in both women’s health care and in access to health care for all.  


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