Washington Pharmacists Sue State Over Forcing Sales of Morning After Pill

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Pharmacists Sue State Over Forcing Sales of Morning After Pill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 26
, 2007

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Pharmacists in Washington are suing the state government over a rule slated to go into effect on Thursday forcing them to dispense the morning after pill. The medical professionals say the law forces them into "choosing between their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."

In April, the Washington state pharmacy board approved new rules that require pharmacists to fill all legal prescriptions for drugs.

The rule would apply even if the pharmacist objects to the drug on the grounds that it could cause an abortion or for other moral or religious reasons.

The state board approved the new rules on a unanimous vote saying that pharmacists can’t get in the way of a patient’s "right" to a prescription.

But pharmacists Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen and Stormans Inc., which owns the Ralph’s Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia, filed a lawsuit against the new rule. They don’t want to have to hand out the Plan B drug because it can cause an abortion in limited circumstances.

The new rules allow pharmacists to opt out of dispensing the drug, but only if a colleague is available at the pharmacy at the time the customer wants the drug. Pharmacy owners are not given an option to exercise their rights.

Instead, they must order the drug if they do not have any of it on hand at the time a customer requests it.

The lawsuit comes after a new survey showing majority of Americans believe pharmacists should be given a conscience clause to protect their moral and religious views.

The Baraga Interactive polling firm conducted the survey for Pharmacists for Life International and found that a majority of Americans favor optional coverage of so-called "birth control," and favor pharmacists being able to enjoy freedom of conscience when to not fill or counsel for drugs.

Sixty-one percent support no health insurance covering treatments such as so-called "birth-control pills," and 65 percent support a pharmacist’s right to decline to fill or counsel for prescription drugs which may violate their sincerely held religious, moral and ethical beliefs.

Pharmacists for Life said laws like those in Washington are “essentially lowering the cognitive services of pharmacists to the level of fancy order takers.”

The Associated Press said pro-abortion Gov. Chris Gregoire did not return a request for comment.

The rule is a compromise worked out after Gregoire threatened to remove members of the pharmacy board after they initially proposed ruled with a more expansive conscience clause.

The debate over the rules came about after pharmacists objected to filling prescriptions for the morning after pill. Since then, the FDA approved over the counter status allowing non-prescription sales to anyone over the age of 18.

Pro-life groups have objected to the FDA decision saying it would lead to risky sex, pointing out the drug doesn’t reduce abortion or pregnancy rates, and saying that men who sexually abuse young women could buy the drug to cover up their actions.

Other polls also confirm that Americans support pharmacists over mandatory laws like those in Washington.

A 2005 Medscape poll found 69 percent support a pharmacists’ conscience clause.

California and Illinois have laws similar to those in Washington while Arkansas, Georgia, South Dakota and Mississippi have laws that support the pharmacist’s right to opt out of dispensing drugs that violate their moral or religious views.