- The Washington Times - Monday, January 4, 2016

Christian pharmacists in Washington state asked the Supreme Court Monday to review a ruling that seeks to force them to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives.

In 2012, a federal judge agreed with Margo Thelen, Rhonda Mesler and the Stormans family that a Washington rule requiring them to dispense abortion-inducing products violated their religious freedom.

However, in July, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court ruling.

Ms. Thelen, Ms. Mesler and the Stormans family, which owns Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia, Washington, filed a request on Monday for the Supreme Court to review their case.

The pharmacists say that when customers request an abortion-inducing drug, they refer the customer to one of some 30 nearby pharmacists that sell the drugs, said officials with Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of their legal representatives.

This referral process, which honors religious conscience, is legal in all 50 states and is approved by the American Pharmacists Association, the Becket Fund said. Thus, when the Washington law blocks such referrals, it is simply punishing people of faith, said attorney Luke Goodrich of the Becket Fund.

The federal appellate court, however, rejected the pharmacists’ claims and concluded that “the rules are neutral and generally applicable, and that the rules rationally further the State’s interest in patient safety.” 

Washington state adopted its rules in 2007 after hearing reports that some women had been denied access to Plan B, an emergency-contraception product that is taken within a short time period after unprotected sexual intercourse.

Emergency-contraception products can block fertilization and disrupt a new pregnancy — pro-life supporters oppose these products for one or both of those reasons.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to take the case, Stormans v. Wiesman, by March.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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