The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


A prescription for trouble

SMU doctor wouldn’t prescribe Morning After pill to student after being raped
 A prescription for trouble
A staff member of the Health Center reportedly refused to prescribe b
A prescription for trouble

A prescription for trouble (A staff member of the Health Center reportedly refused to prescribe b)

Last fall, Lacy, a student at SMU, was raped. The next day, she went to the SMU Memorial Health Center and asked for emergency contraception – often called the “morning-after pill” – to avoid getting pregnant.

However, Lacy, who has asked to remain anonymous, said Dr. Shannon Sims, a doctor at the center, refused to write a prescription for the pill. Lacy, a junior, said Sims told her she did not write prescriptions for the morning-after pill – also known as the Plan B method – because of her religious beliefs.

According to Lacy, Dr. Sims told her, “ ‘Read between the lines, I’m Catholic, so I don’t believe in the Plan B method, so therefore, I have the right to refuse to write the prescription.’ ”

Sims declined to be interviewed despite numerous calls to her office.

Lacy is outraged and troubled by what happened. “It made me feel really awkward, and I was already terribly upset, so it made me feel even more angry,” she said.

June Tehan, Sims’ nurse, said her boss is not the only doctor at the health center who refuses to prescribe the morning-after pill for religious reasons. According to Cindy Nicholson, a pharmacist at the center, there are more than a dozen physicians at the health center, but only one will write a prescription for the morning-after pill.

James Caswell, Vice President for Student Affairs, said he was surprised to learn that many doctors at the health center refuse to prescribe the morning-after pill for religious reasons. Caswell promised to investigate the matter. “I think that it raises questions about policy and procedure in the health service, and I intend to pursue that,” Caswell said in an interview in November.

Last week, Caswell said that SMU allows campus doctors to refuse to prescribe the morning-after pill for religious reasons. In a written statement, Caswell said the policy of “our health center is that physicians and staff are not required to perform or participate in procedures or treatments they are morally opposed to.”

Caswell said any student who requests the morning-after pill should meet with Dr. Nancy Merrill, a co-director and part-time physician at the center, or Nancy Bryan, a nurse practitioner. “If they are unavailable, the student is given a list of community resources where they are available with directions,” Caswell said.

Some students said SMU should not allow a doctor’s religious beliefs to determine whether he or she would prescribe the morning-after pill particularly considering the frequency of sexual assaults on college campuses.

“It does not seem right to me that a person with greater power should be able to force their religious beliefs and practices on those with less power,” said Leticia Gallegos, a senior film major

The U.S. Department of Justice recently released a study showing that as many as one in every four college women will be sexually victimized during her years in college.

Patrick Hite, director of the Health Center, said the medical profession has a tradition in which doctors, for religious reasons, refuse to participate in certain procedures such as prescribing the morning-after pill. “We always honored that because you always had enough other people that would go ahead and do it,” he said. Hite said the health center has at least one staffer available daily who is willing prescribe the morning-after pill.

Several students said it is wrong for a doctor to deny the morning-after pill to a rape victim.

“In the case of a woman who has been raped, the doctor’s ethical/religious beliefs should be put aside and he should treat the patient,” said Jennifer Garza, a sophomore pre-med student. “In medicine that is who comes first.”

More than 300,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in the United States, according to Of these, an estimated 25,000 will become pregnant. About 22,000 of these pregnancies could be prevented if the women had used emergency contraception, according to the web site.

Lacy is one of these statistics.

Before she was sexually assaulted, Lacy was a virgin. Lacy said she planned to remain a virgin until she got married.

That all changed during the early morning hours of August 27. Lacy said she was drunk and flirting with a friend at a sorority party at Margarita Ranch. The friend asked Lacy if he could go to her apartment to take a shower because he had to be at work in a couple of hours. She didn’t see anything wrong with it. They left the party at about 1:30 a.m.

While he went to take a shower, Lacy put her pajamas and got into bed. “I was so tired and drunk, I could barely keep my eyes open,” she said. When her friend got out of the shower, he turned the lights off and got into bed with her. “He kept pulling on the back of my pants and kept trying to make out with me,” Lacy said, “One thing led to another, and he tried three times to have sex with me.” She refused but he would not stop. Finally, Lacy said, he raped her. About 15 minutes later, Lacy finally got him to leave. Lacy, in tears, took a shower. Then, she started calling friends seeking help.

Nine hours later, at 11 a.m., Lacy met with Dr. Derrick Blanton, a counselor at the Health Center. “He instructed me to talk to the people downstairs for the plan B pill, since I’ve never had intercourse and I’m not on birth control,” she said.

Lacy said she met with Sims, but she refused to fill the prescription. Tehan, Sims’ nurse, suggested Lacy meet with another doctor at the Health Center to get the morning-after pill. Lacy did but said the experience was difficult. The second doctor asked her the same questions as Sims. Finally, the doctor wrote the prescription, and Lacy got it filled at the Walgreen’s at Mockingbird and Greenville Avenue.

Lacy said being a virgin had long been important to her. “I still consider myself a virgin, because there was only like 10 seconds of penetration, and it wasn’t my choice,” she said.

Dr. Merrill said it is up to each doctor to decide whether to prescribe the morning-after pill. “A physician can’t do something that they feel is morally wrong or feel that it’s not in the best interest of the patient,” she said.

Emily Snooks, a spokesperson for the Dallas office of Planned Parenthood, said there are no laws requiring doctors to prescribe the morning-after pill for a rape victim. She said Lacy’s experience demonstrates the need to change the law regarding emergency contraception or EC.

“Hearing about this student’s situation once again reinforces the reason why emergency contraception should be available over the counter and should be sitting in every woman’s medicine cabinet as a back-up method of birth control,” Snooks said. “That is why when every woman who comes to Planned Parenthood of North Texas for her annual pap smear is informed about EC and encouraged to purchase it. This is also why we support a bill in Texas that would make EC a standard of care for rape victims.”

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