In a welcome development yesterday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that pharmacies in Washington (State) must fill patients’ prescriptions even if the owner has religious objections. While individual pharmacists are still allowed to say no, someone else must do the work on their behalf without delay.
A unanimous three-judge 9th Circuit panel on Thursday decided that the rules are constitutional because they rationally further the state’s interest in patient safety. Speed is particularly important considering the time-sensitive nature of emergency contraception, the court said.
“The time taken to travel to another pharmacy, especially in rural areas where pharmacies are sparse, may reduce the efficacy of those drugs,” wrote Judge Susan Graber.
It’s the right decision. No pharmacy owner should be getting in between patients and their doctors because they believe the medication makes Jesus cry. If they want to be in the business of denying patients certain kinds of medicine, then they’re in the wrong line of work.
“The state of Washington has a clear interest in making sure women can get emergency contraception in a timely and safe manner,” said Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s associate legal director. “A pharmacy owner’s personal religious beliefs shouldn’t be permitted to undermine that access.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, on the owner’s side, said that denying women emergency contraception is totally okay because there are other pharmacies nearby that do what they’re supposed to do:
“The government has no business punishing citizens solely because of their religious beliefs,” the group’s deputy general counsel, Luke Goodrich, said in a news release. “The pharmacists in this case willingly refer patients to over 30 pharmacies that stock the morning-after pill within a 5 mile radius, and no patient has ever been denied timely access to any drug.”
Even if that’s true, it makes you wonder what the purpose of a pharmacy is if they can’t meet a patient’s needs. Why have a McDonald’s in the first place if the vegetarian owner tells you to drive a couple of miles down the road if you want a hamburger?
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