by Steven Ertelt
November 9, 2007
Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Pharmacists in Washington won a victory yesterday when a federal judge halted a new state requirement forcing them to fill prescriptions for all drugs, including those that would violate their moral or religious beliefs. Under pressure from pro-abortion Gov. Chris Gregoire, the pharmacy board approved the rules earlier this year.
Kevin Stormans, who owns pharmacies in the state, filed a lawsuit along with other pharmacists in July seeking to overturn the new rules.
The medical professionals say the law forces them into "choosing between their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."
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.
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.
But U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that pharmacists can refuse to fill a prescription for the morning after pill or other objectionable drugs if they refer the customer to another store where they can get the order filled.
"On the issue of free exercise of religion alone, the evidence before the court convinces it that plaintiffs … have demonstrated both a likelihood of success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable injury," Leighton wrote.
Pharmacies are also protected under the injunction Judge Leighton issued.
The lawsuit followed 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-five percent support a pharmacist’s right to decline to fill or counsel for prescription drugs which violate their moral or religious views.
California, New Jersey 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.