Copyright 2000 The Seattle Times Company
August 1, 2000, Tuesday Final Edition
SECTION: LOCAL NEWS; Pg. B1; NICOLE BRODEUR
LENGTH: 521 words
Nation may be winner in Seattle suit
Brodeur; Times staff columnist
Erickson suddenly starts to cry, and I am as adequate as a guy in one of those
beer commercials. I don't know whether to hug her or grab her by the shoulders
and tell her to pull herself together and soldier on.
So I shoot for the
middle. You're doing a great thing, I tell her. You're helping a lot of women,
maybe saving lives.
Erickson nods and wipes her eyes. She knows all
this. She is just not used to women stopping her in the street to thank her, or
to being the current crusader for women's equality.
"It's just been
crazy," she tells me. "You never imagine yourself doing something this big."
Erickson, 27, is a Bellevue pharmacist at the center of a class-action
suit that seeks to have contraceptives covered by the company
medical plan. The suit was filed last week against Erickson's employer, Bartell
Drugs, by lawyers for Planned Parenthood.
The suit could have national
impact because it highlights a possible violation of federal discrimination laws
and could ultimately affect millions of women at every income level.
I see Erickson's suit as packing an even bigger punch.
By raising the
issue of access to birth control, she has touched upon other debates that are
being set out like a buffet for conventioneering politicians - and some local
ones - to chew and spew until voters signal for the check in November.
Insured birth control would take some of the fire out of the
never-ending battle over abortion rights.
No one is comfortable with the
legacy of Roe vs. Wade, myself included. But until we eliminate the problem of
unwanted pregnancies, safe abortions are a necessary solution. Erickson's
lawsuit could make them less so.
If more women were able to get
contraceptives through their health plans, fewer would get
pregnant and perhaps seek abortions.
Insured birth control would also
help those women who choose not to abort, but are having unwanted children - and
then dumping them in bathroom stalls or Dumpsters.
show that of the 105 known abandoned babies in 1998, 33 were found dead.
Washington state lawmakers are considering a law that would set up
specific spots - hospitals or some other "safe haven" - where mothers could
safely and anonymously abandon their newborns. Fourteen states have enacted
So Erickson's suit means even more than she thinks.
Surely, saving babies from conception, and others from fast and fatal
disposal, is something both parties can rally around this summer.
right now, it is Jennifer Erickson doing the fighting for every working woman in
America of child-bearing age.
"Women shouldn't need a doctor's letter to
get birth control," she says. "It should be basic health care. It's just one
more hoop for them to jump through."
Something to keep in mind as
politicians gather for their own three-ring circuses in Philadelphia and Los
Angeles this summer.
Leave the jumping to them.
Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday in The Times. Her phone
number is 206-464-2334. Her e-mail address is email@example.com. Mr.
Cheney? Dick? You listening?