OLYMPIA, Wash. — Inaction by the U.S. Supreme Court late last month means that a religious rights battle of almost a decade has ended unsuccessfully for Christian pharmacists here.
The U.S. Supreme Court on June 28 declined to hear an appeal from Washington state pharmacists who said they have religious objections to dispensing Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.
That means the state is now free to enforce a law requiring them to sell the “morning after” pill and abortion-causing drugs that violate their conscience as Christians, instead of allowing them to refer customers to nearby pharmacies.
Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing the pharmacy at Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia and two pharmacists last January asked the High Court to weigh in on the state rules. The state allows pharmacists to refer to other stores for a variety of reasons, but singles out religiously motivated referrals as prohibited.
After a 12-day trial in 2012, a federal district court in Washington suspended the state’s regulations, which Planned Parenthood drafted in 2007 at the behest of former Gov. Christine Gregoire.
The ruling permitted the two pharmacists, Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, and the owners of Storman’s Inc., which runs Ralph;s Thriftway, to continue to refer customers rather than sell the drugs Plan B and ella.
The two drugs are widely available in Washington state, including at more than 30 pharmacies within a five-mile radius of Ralph’s Thriftway.
But last summer, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed that district court’s decision.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner expressed disappointment that the High Court declined the appeal.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented from the denial and wrote that they would have agreed to hear the case. They described the denial as an “ominous sign” of infringement on fundamental rights.