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Court: Wash. pharmacists can't be forced to violate their consciences

ADF-allied attorneys win significant rights of conscience case

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012

ADF attorney sound bite:  Steven H. Aden

TACOMA, Wash. — A federal court in Washington state ruled Wednesday that the state board of pharmacy cannot force pharmacists to stock drugs that risk taking human life if the pharmacists have a religious, moral, or ethical objection. The court determined that the pharmacists should be allowed to do what they have sought from the beginning, which is to refer patients seeking such drugs to other pharmacies.

Alliance Defense Fund allied attorneys with the Seattle law firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC,  represent pharmacists in the lawsuit, Stormans v. Selecky. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is co-counsel together with ADF, which has provided financial and legal support for the case.

“Americans should be able to rely on health care providers who have a conscience,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden. “The court’s decision is a ringing affirmation that conscience and good health care are not only compatible, but inseparable. Allowing pharmacists to exercise their consciences in this way serves both the patients and the pharmacists. It’s a win-win situation, and we commend both Ellis, Li & McKinstry and The Becket Fund for their outstanding work on this case.”

“Patients are the biggest winners in this decision,” said Kristen Waggoner, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “Customers will receive prescribed drugs in the most efficient manner possible while at the same time respecting the conscience rights of pharmacists, who should never be forced to participate in destroying human life just to be able to preserve their professional licenses.”

In its opinion, the court wrote, “The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable. They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The rules are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in 2007, sought to safeguard the conscience rights of pharmacists and pharmacies against state pharmacy board regulations that forced them to stock or distribute drugs that can potentially induce abortions.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.