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Pharmacists Petition SCOTUS To Overturn Wash. Rules on Dispensing Emergency Contraception

January 5, 2015 — A group of pharmacists on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld a Washington state law requiring pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception, regardless of whether owners have religious objections, AP/Modern Healthcare reports (AP/Modern Healthcare, 1/4).

Background

The law, enacted in 2007, requires pharmacies to stock and dispense time-sensitive drugs for which there is a demand, including emergency contraception. The state permits individual pharmacists to refer prescriptions to other pharmacists at the same location, as long as doing so does not create delays.

Ralph's Thriftway Pharmacy owner Kevin Stormans and his family sued the state over the EC provision because of religious objections to the drugs. The family won at trial, but the state appealed. In July 2015, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in a unanimous decision overturned the lower court decision and wrote that the "rules are rationally related to Washington's legitimate interest in ensuring that its citizens have safe and timely access to their lawful and lawfully prescribed medications." The court also noted that speed of delivery is critical for EC (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/27/15).

Latest Developments

Ralph's Thriftway Pharmacy and two pharmacists on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their appeal (AP/Modern Healthcare, 1/4). According to The Hill, the lawsuit is supported by the antiabortion-rights legal group, the Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty.

Supporters of the law say that pharmacies have increasingly refused to sell contraception, which "can have devastating consequences for women's health," according to the National Women's Law Center (Ferris, The Hill, 1/4).