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US Supreme Court Declines to Hear Pharmacists' Case against Extreme Washington Law

October 17, 2017

For ten years, the Stormans family and local pharmacists Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler have been fighting against an extreme Washington State law that forces them to choose between their professions and their religious beliefs.

They had support of more than 35 pharmacy organizations, including the American Pharmacists Association and the Washington State Pharmacy Association. Their position, allowing referral for religious reasons, is the law in every other state in the nation. And a federal court had also ruled in their favor, finding that the Washington States regulations were "aimed at [abortificatient drugs] and conscientious objectors from their inception." 

But unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear their case today, Stormans v. Weisman.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said, “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. 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 more than 34 other pharmacy associations. Not one customer in Washington has been denied timely access to any drug due to a religious objection.”

As a federal court found after a 12 day trial, the law in question prevents pharmacists from making conscience-based referrals (which is standard ethical practice in 49 states), but allows pharmacies to refer for a whole host of other reasons. Specifically for our clients, it forces them to dispense abortion-inducing drugs, such as Plan B and ella, against their conscience.   

Abortion advocates have misportrayed the case as an issue of access, but the facts clearly show that the state targeted religious pharmacists to further its abortion agenda. A federal court noted that the State had admitted that "'facilitated referrals do not pose a threat to timely access to lawfully prescribed medications'; rather, facilitated referrals 'help assure timely access,' including to Plan B specifically." Not one of the government’s or Planned Parenthood’s witnesses could identify any drug or any geographical area in the state that lacked access.

Case in point: Plan B and ella are widely available in Washington, including at more than 30 pharmacies within a five mile radius of Ralph’s Thriftway—the family grocery store and pharmacy owned by the Stormans family for more than 70 years.

Americans should not have to give up their profession and business because they believe that life begins at conception, but that is exactly what this law is forcing pro-life pharmacists and pharmacy owners in the state to do.

"All we are asking is to be able to live consistently with the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend," said Greg Stormans.

Show Your Support for Pro-Life Pharmacists

Alliance Defending Freedom has defended the Stormans family, Margo Thelen, and Rhonda Mesler, free of charge, for the last ten years. But it is only through God's grace and with the generous financial support of our Ministry Friends that we can continue to stand with people like the Stormans and fight for their religious freedom. Please consider giving a gift today to help us continue to work on behalf of people like them all across the United States.  

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