Just one day after issuing a major ruling striking down a portion of a pro-life law in Texas saving thousands of babies from abortion and closing unscrupulous abortion clinics, the Supreme Court has made a second anti-life decision.
Today, the nation’s highest court refused to hear an appeal from pro-life pharmacists in Washington state who are challenging a state law forcing them to sell the morning after pull and abortion-causing drugs that violate their conscience as Christians instead of allowing them to refer customers to nearby pharmacies.
A pro-life family that runs pharmacies in Washington State has been at the center of an epic battle over religious rights for years. In 2007, abortion activists convinced the Washington Board of Pharmacy to pass regulations that force pharmacists in the state to dispense abortion causing drugs. This caused a major dilemma for the Stormans family, owners of a third-generation pharmacy. Their religious convictions prevented them from selling drugs that destroy innocent human life. Yet the State insisted they do so.
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After the state launched an investigation, the Stormans family filed a lawsuit against the state for violating their First Amendment rights. That resulted in a years-long legal battle — one that has ultimately made its way to the Supreme Court.
But, the nation’s highest court refused to take the case — making it so the infringing pro-abortion law stands.
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented from the denial and would have agreed to hear the case. They wrote:
“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner reacted to the Suprem Court’s refusal to take the case in comments to LifeNews.
“All Americans should be free to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of unjust punishment, and no one should be forced to participate in the taking of human life. We had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this opportunity to reaffirm these long-held principles,” Waggoner said.
“The state of Washington allows pharmacists to refer customers for just about any reason—except reasons of conscience. Singling out people of faith and denying them the same freedom to refer is a violation of federal law. All 49 other states allow conscience-based referrals, which are fully supported by the American Pharmacists Association, the Washington Pharmacy Association, and 36 other pharmacy associations,” she continued.
She told LifeNews: “Not one customer in Washington has been denied timely access to any drug due to a religious objection. As the trial court found, the government designed its law for the ‘primary—if not sole—purpose’ of targeting religious health care providers. We are disappointed that the high court didn’t take this case and uphold the trial court’s finding.”
Margo Thelen, Rhonda Mesler, and the Stormans family have worked in the pharmacy profession for over seventy years. When a customer requests an abortion-inducing drug, they refer the customer to one of over thirty pharmacies within five miles that willingly sell the drugs. For decades, this has been standard pharmacy practice, has been approved by the American Pharmacists Association, and has been legal in all 50 states.
But in 2007, Washington adopted a new law making referrals for reasons of conscience illegal. The law was passed in a cloud of controversy, with then-Governor Christine Gregoire threatening to terminate the State Pharmacy Commission and replacing Commission members with new ones recommended by abortion-rights activists. The law leaves pharmacies free to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of reasons related to business, economics, and convenience—but not for reasons of conscience. Because of the law, Margo Thelen lost her job, Rhonda Mesler was threatened with losing hers, and the Stormans family faces the loss of its pharmacy license.
After a twelve-day trial, a federal court in February 2012 struck down the law as unconstitutional, finding “abundant evidence” that the law was designed to force religious pharmacists and pharmacy owners to violate their faith. But last July the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, upholding the law.