When Kate entered an Ottawa-area walk-in clinic for birth control, all she got was a doctor’s note explaining “no.”
In a post on XOJane, Kate wrote that the note was set on top of a pile of others just like it, each outlining that any requests for birth control, vasectomies, abortions, the morning after pill, or any other form of artificial contraception would be denied due to the doctor’s “professional ethical concerns and religious values.”
“I only provide one form of birth control, Natural Family Planning,” read the letter signed by CareMedics Dr. Edmond Kyrillos. Shocked, Kate folded up the piece of paper and left the clinic to look for another that would grant her access to contraceptives.
“It almost felt like I was doing something wrong. I felt truly embarrassed having to leave in front of a group of people because of something that someone thinks is shameful and not right,” wrote Kate about the experience.
On Jan. 29, Kate posted an image of the letter to a pro-choice Facebook group called Radical Handmaids, a name derived from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," about women’s rights. It was captioned, “So, yes – this is real. Yes, this is a real doctor. No, you are not in a time warp.”
Reaction was swift and predictably critical.
“There is no respect in that letter. Just male chauvinism and a deep disrespect for all women,” wrote Bika B. Several people in the photo's thread also panned the note as archaic. One man raised the observation that “it’s 2014.” But others weren't interested in biting the gender and religion bait.
“The issue isn’t the doctor’s sex or religion. The issue is the failure to provide adequate care to patients because of religion,” said Angelica Moreno.
Despite the fiery backlash, Kyrillos acted legally, according to a group that represents Canada's doctors, residents, and medical students. As far as the Canadian Medical Association can tell, Kyrillos was acting well within its policy when he cited moral and religious beliefs as a reason to not offer abortions – but what about the ethics around denying a woman access to birth control?
That’s a medical grey area, admitted Canadian Medical Association’s Jeff Blackmer, who told the Ottawa Citizen, “We don’t expect [doctors] to check their morals at the door; we recognize they will continue to hold personal views.”
The newspaper also reported that Kyrillos is one of three doctors at the same company of clinics who deny similar services on moral and religious grounds.
A week after Kate posted her letter, a 27-year-old Catholic patient from the same clinic defended its choice to stick with “natural family planning,” saying the health care choice shouldn't make doctors the target of social media kangaroo courts.
“They are not duping women,” said Andrea Pawlowsky to the Citizen. “I am quite sure all the women who go there go because they know what they want and they are going there for that reason.”
TAKE A LOOK AT THE LETTER BELOW:
What do you think? Is it wrong to deny women access to birth control on moral or religious grounds?
Read the letter below:
Please be advised that because of reasons of my own medical judgment as well as professional ethical concerns and religious values, I only provide one form of birth control, Natural Family Planning. In addition, I do not refer for vasectomies, abortions nor prescribe the morning after pill or any artificial contraception. If you are interested in the latter, please be aware that you may approach your own family doctor or request to be seen by another physician.
Some patients also come to a walk in clinic for prescriptions of narcotics. The distribution of those drugs is controlled. Narcotics have a high potential for side effects, including addiction and they should be prescribed by a regular physician who is able to follow you. It is your responsibility to ensure that this physician will be renewing your prescription on time as I won’t do so in a context of walk in clinic.
With deepest respect,
Edmond Kyrillos, B. Eng., MD, CCFP
Also on HuffPost:
Pills work best if they're taken at the same time each day -- which is often difficult for women to remember.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/duck/" target="_hplink">Flickr/canardo</a>)
It's not as common as it once was, but antibiotics can occasionally affect the effectiveness of your birth control pill. Ask the doctor who prescribed the antibiotics about any potential interactions.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheeppurple/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Sheep purple</a>)
Talking About It With Partner
While it can be difficult with a new partner, avoiding the subject of birth control won't make it go away, particularly if you've already started having sex. Get past sexual histories, concerns and preferred methods out in the open as soon as possible to make this work for everyone.
Buying The Wrong Condoms
Besides also being more comfortable for both partners, ensuring you have the right condom size can mean it's less slightly to break (if it's too tight) or slip off (if it's too small).<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertelyov/" target="_hplink">Flickr/robertelyov</a>)
Be Open To Change
The Pill isn't the be all and end all of birth control options - investigate alternatives if you're not all that into the Pill, or if it's giving you some adverse side effects. Options like the intrauterine device (IUD) shown here are quite common, and could even be more effective.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stickypearls/" target="_hplink">Flickr/+mara</a>)
Forgetting to take their Pill is more common than most women would like to admit, and it can certainly impact the risk of pregnancy. Missing one day is generally believed to be fine, but you should probably opt for back-up for a week after just in case.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shimrit/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Shemer</a>)
Adding On Protection
Similarly, the first week -- and more cautious people say even month -- of starting the Pill, use a condom, as the hormones won't yet be as effective as they could be. <br>(Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyleesilver/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Jenny Lee Silver</a>)
Using The Wrong Tools
Oil-based lubricants shouldn't be used with condoms, as they can break down the latex and therefore increase the risk of pregnancy. Always opt for water-based lubricants.
You Take It Out Too Soon
For birth control methods like sponges and diaphragms that require removal, women can make the mistake of taking them out too soon -- each should be removed six hours after sex, but shouldn't be kept in any longer than 30 hours.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Ryan Somma</a>)