ByÂ Cheryl Wetzstein-The Washington Times
WashingtonÂ state officials are permanently blocked from enforcing rules that tell pharmacies and pharmacists they have to stock emergency-contraception products regardless of any religious objections, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
â€œThe Board ofÂ Pharmacyâ€™s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable,â€ U.S. District JudgeÂ Ronald B. LeightonÂ wrote in a case that pitted two veteran pharmacists and Ralphâ€™s Thriftway in Olympia, Wash., against state health officials and theÂ state pharmacy board.
Instead, the rules were designed â€œto force religious objectors to dispense Plan B,â€ said the judge, noting that other pharmacies that failed to dispense the same product for â€œsecular reasonsâ€ were not subjected to the state investigations and public harassment that Ralphâ€™s Thriftway has endured.
â€œThe rules are unconstitutional as applied to the Plaintiffs. The Court will therefore permanently enjoin their enforcement against Plaintiffs,â€ wrote JudgeÂ Leighton, who serves in the Western District Court ofÂ Washingtonat Tacoma.
The ruling is a rebuke to the efforts of WashingtonÂ Gov. Christine Gregoire, who appointed all the defendants, and her pro-choice allies, who worked to ensure that the Washington Board ofÂ PharmacyÂ would have new members who would write and pass a rule omitting â€œconscienceâ€ as a reason for not dispensing Plan B or â€œEllaâ€ morning-after pills.
Emergency-contraception products are used by women after sex to prevent pregnancy; the products must be used within a few days to be effective. Many religious people object to Plan B and Ella as abortifacients because they can destroy a fertilized embryo.
The plaintiffs said they referred customers to other pharmacies for the products they could not stock or dispense for conscience reasons.
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