Monday, February 27, 2012

Judge: Can't Strip Religious Liberty with Plan B

A federal judge negated a 2007 Washington state requirement, demanded by pro-abortion Gov. Chris Gregoire, that pharmacists sell the morning-after (Plan B) pill despite their claims to religious conscience.

For background, read 'Morning-after' Pill Gone at Pharmacists Choosing in Washington

-- From "Federal judge says Washington state cannot force pharmacies to sell emergency contraceptives" by The Associated Press 2/22/12

The state’s true goal in adopting the rules at issue was not to promote the timely access to medicine, but to suppress religious objections by druggists who believe that such drugs can have an effect tantamount to abortion, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said in his ruling Wednesday.

Washington’s rules require that pharmacies stock and dispense drugs for which there is a demand. The state adopted the dispensing regulations in 2007, following reports that some women had been denied access to Plan B, which has a high dose of medicine found in birth-control pills and is effective if a woman takes it within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

“The most compelling evidence that the rules target religious conduct is the fact the rules contain numerous secular exemptions,” the judge said. “In sum, the rules exempt pharmacies and pharmacists from stocking and delivering lawfully prescribed drugs for an almost unlimited variety of secular reasons, but fail to provide exemptions for reasons of conscience.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge strikes down law mandating sale of contraception" by Katherine Luck, Reuters 2/23/12

"A pharmacy is permitted to refuse to stock oxycodone because it fears robbery, but the same pharmacy cannot refuse to stock Plan B because it objects on religious grounds," the judge wrote. "Why are these reasons treated differently under the rules?"

The judge also accused the state of enforcing the mandate selectively, noting that regulators had not opened cases against the many Catholic-affiliated pharmacies in the state that also refuse to dispense Plan B.

Leighton concluded in his opinion that the rules in question "are not neutral," adding: "They are designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted."

The ruling only applies to Washington state but is sure to reverberate nationally . . .

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.
From "Judge: Washington Can’t Mandate Pharmacists Dispense Plan B" by Steven Ertelt, 2/22/12

The new regulations made it illegal to refer patients to neighboring pharmacies for reasons of conscience, despite allowing them to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of business, economic, or convenience reasons. Because of the regulations, Margo Thelen lost her job; Rhonda Mesler was told she would have to transfer to another state; and Kevin Stormans, the owner of Ralph’s Thriftway, faced repeated investigations and threats of punishment from the State Board of Pharmacy.

The plaintiffs in the case are a family-owned pharmacy (Ralph’s Thriftway) and two individual pharmacists (Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler) who cannot in good conscience dispense Plan B (“the morning-after pill”) or ella (“the week-after pill”). They filed suit seeking the right to refuse to stock or dispense the drugs.

A lower court issued an injunction against the new rules, on the basis that the suit was likely to succeed. In 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling that had temporarily put on hold a requirement for pharmacists to dispense all legal drugs.

Now back at the lower court level ruling on the merits of the case itself, the court issued the pharmacists a legal victory.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge rules Wash. pharmacists cannot be forced to dispense contraception" by Benjamin Mann, Catholic News Agency 2/23/12

In his opinion, Judge Leighton recalled the controversy that gave rise to the Board of Pharmacy's 2007 rules. In 2006, the board adopted a draft rule allowing conscientious objectors to opt out of giving emergency contraception.

Governor Christine Gregoire, however, objected to the rules, declaring that “no one should be denied appropriate prescription drugs based on the personal, religious, or moral objection of individual pharmacists.”

Gregoire threatened to replace the entire board if it adopted the draft rule. Its final rule drew from proposals by Planned Parenthood and the Northwest Women’s Law Center, and included provisions Judge Leighton said were meant “to eliminate conscientious objection.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.