Seattle, October 28, 2009 Legal Voice and Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest applaud today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Stormans et al v. Selecky et al. The case involves a challenge brought by two pharmacists and a pharmacy to Washington State Board of Pharmacy rules requiring all licensed pharmacies to fill patients’ prescriptions, regardless of an individual pharmacist’s personal beliefs about a particular medication. Legal Voice and PPGNW, with the help of Seattle law firms Perkins Coie, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and the Summit Law Group, represent seven Washington patients who intervened to defend the rules.
In October of 2007, a federal court in Tacoma enjoined enforcement of the rules pending trial – but only as to pharmacies and pharmacists who refuse to dispense Plan B, the emergency contraceptive. The effect of this rule is to single out women’s reproductive healthcare for different – and worse – treatment.
Last July, in a strongly-worded decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the injunction, finding that the trial court abused its discretion in enjoining the pharmacy rule. Immediately after the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, the pharmacists asked that court to reconsider its decision. Today, in response to that request, the Ninth Circuit strongly reaffirmed its earlier decision, finding “the new rules do not aim to suppress, target, or single out in any way the practice of religion, but, rather, their objective was to increase access to all lawfully prescribed medications.” The court specifically recognized that the trial court “erred in finding that access to Plan B was not a problem, especially given that state officials have already made findings suggesting the opposite.”
Today’s decision affects all patients, not just those seeking contraception. “The ruling sends a strong signal that the regulations are constitutional and will ultimately be upheld,” said Lisa Stone, Executive Director of Legal Voice. This decision helps clear the way for the state to enforce its rules, ensuring that all pharmacies comply with the requirement that all patients get their medication needs met in a timely manner, without delay, and without harassment. “We are extremely pleased,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. “Prompt access to medications is crucial to meet the needs of patients.” Under the rules, individual pharmacists with personal objections to filling prescriptions may have their beliefs accommodated - but not at the expense of patients.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is the region’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate. We believe everyone has the right to choose when or whether to have a child, and that every child should be wanted and loved. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest operates 28 health centers in Alaska, Idaho, and western Washington, providing medical services and sexuality education for thousands of women, men, and teenagers each year. Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. We rely heavily on support from donors to help sustain responsible reproduction.