National News

Court to Pharmacists: Conscience Is Not Part of the Prescription

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) – A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals July 23 reversed a lower court ruling that had granted pro-life pharmacists at a pharmacy in Washington state the right on religious grounds to refuse to stock emergency contraception or fill such prescriptions.

The pharmacists say they will appeal the ruling to the full 9th Circuit. The plaintiffs are challenging Washington state pharmacy board rules that say pharmacists cannot refuse to dispense drugs they say are contrary to their conscience, nor can they refer customers to other pharmacists who will fill such prescriptions.

The court rejected three specific claims lodged by the plaintiffs, who are two pharmacists and a pharmacy owner: equal protection, free exercise and due process, the last of which had been rejected by the lower court but was considered anew by the appellate court.

“No one should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and their family businesses and livelihoods, particularly when the state allows referrals for just about any other reason. The premier medical and pharmaceutical associations all support the right of a provider to refer patients, and all other states allow such referrals,” said Kristen Waggoner, of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which had represented the pharmacists in court.

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