Dispensing The Pill • The largest organization of women's health specialists says there is no medical reason for women to get an exam or even a prescription before they purchase birth-control pills. The drugs are safe for over-the-counter sales. That doesn't mean pharmacists can begin dispensing the pills; drug makers would have to get government OK first. And women would pay more, as insurance companies only cover prescription drugs, though it does make sense to classify the pill as preventive treatment like vaccinations, which are covered under the ACA. Making contraceptives more available would very likely have two beneficial results: fewer women having abortions and fewer unwanted babies. It's ironic that the very people who oppose abortion also oppose more accessible birth control. What they want, apparently, is for people to "just say no." But that's not working out so well. Half the pregnancies in America each year are unintended.
Falling off the wagon • The newest member of Utah's congressional delegation Republican Chris Stewart is already leading the way in one crucial respect. He has refused to join those who have pledged their troth, not to the people of the United States, but to a savvy political operator named Grover Norquist and his deceptively named Americans for Tax Reform. The group is not for tax reform. It is against taxes, especially taxes on the billionaires who fund Norquist's lobby. Utah's Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop are among the majority of congressional Republicans to have promised Norquist that they will not support anything that even smells like a tax increase. Happily though, with the fiscal cliff looming and a re-elected President Obama holding firm, some Republican leaders in Congress are publicly rethinking or recanting that pledge. House Speaker John Boehner is trying to provide cover for more of his caucus to abandon the pledge by dismissing Norquist as "some random person." Norquist is still more important than that. But he shouldn't be.
Judging the judges • Voters in Utah have the power to throw state judges out of office every few years. And the state's Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission gathers all kinds of information to give voters a clue whether each judge should or should not be retained. But, with the state's voter information pamphlet going mostly online, and few people logging on, there is little confidence that the retention of all of the 26 judges who were up this year, by roughly 80 percent of the vote, amounts to informed consent. Utah needs to find a better way.