SEATTLE— In the latest chapter in a legal battle going back several years regarding an Olympia pharmacy, a federal court last month upheld state rules that force pharmacists to dispense drugs contrary to their conscience instead of allowing them to refer customers to other pharmacies.
A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled July 22 that the state can force pharmacies to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.
Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia and two pharmacists sued regarding the state rules, saying they required them to violate their religious beliefs, because the drugs can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, which they consider tantamount to abortion. They contended that they should be allowed to refer patients to other drug stores rather than fulfill the prescription themselves.
Kevin Storman, president of the Olympia pharmacy’s parent company, said after the judges’ ruling that it was “extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business. All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend.”
Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal services agency representing the pharmacy, said the decision will be appealed.
“No one should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and their family businesses and livelihoods, particularly when the state allows referrals for just about any other reason,”she said.
Waggoner said the decision would affect many facilities within the state, including Catholic hospitals and pharmacies that have made clear they will not dispense these drugs.