People of Northwest Public Radio
Washington Prescription Law
Thu February 23, 2012
Judge Finds State Pharmacy Rules Unconstitutional
TACOMA, Wash. -- A federal judge in Tacoma has ruled that Washington‘s pharmacy regulations are unconstitutional.
The regulations require pharmacies and pharmacists to fill prescriptions and to do them in a timely manner. The judge found the state’s rules infringe on pharmacists’ right to religious freedom by requiring them to dispense emergency contraception also known as Plan B.
Wednesday's ruling is the latest outcome of a four-year legal battle that pits patient access to medications against medical providers’ religious beliefs. We get more from Ruby de Luna.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that the state’s pharmacy regulations were motivated by and designed to force pharmacists with religious objections to dispense Plan B. Plan B is a high dose birth control drug that’s taken within 72 hours to prevent pregnancy.
Kevin Stormans is the pharmacy owner that challenged the state’s regulations. He says he decided not to carry plan b because he believes life begins with fertilization. Stormans says he’s pleased with the judge’s ruling.
Stormans: “We didn’t originally choose to get involved in this battle, we were forced into this battle, we were forced between having to violate our religious beliefs or close our pharmacy, and neither one was a good option for us.”
The ruling only applies to Stormans and the two pharmacists involved in the lawsuit. The state will continue to enforce its regulations with other pharmacies and pharmacists.
Tomisser: “Another pharmacist couldn’t just take a copy of today’s order and say “Me, too.”
Rene Tomisser is Assistant Attorney General. He says pharmacists or pharmacies who have personal objections would have to file a complaint of their own.
Tomisser disagrees with the judge’s claim that the rules were designed to target religious objectors. He notes that state regulations apply to all medications, not just Plan B…
Tomisser: “The Board’s rules were really patient first rule, so when a patient comes to a pharmacy, and the medication is sitting on the shelf that pharmacy does have to get that medication to the patient and can’t turn them away.”
Tomisser says the state will review the ruling before deciding what steps to take next. Other groups that have intervened on the state’s behalf say they plan to appeal the decision.
Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network