In 2007, the Washington State Pharmacy Commission decided to make it illegal for pharmacists to live consistent with their religious beliefs by continuing to refer customers seeking abortion-inducing drugs, like Plan B, to other nearby pharmacies.
The burden of this unconstitutional law has been swift and severe for the Stormans Family—owners of Ralph's Thriftway, a small local grocery store in Olympia, Washington. They, along with two other Washington-based pharmacists, Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, filed a lawsuit challenging the law, after facing formal complaints brought by the State and pro-abortion activists that threatened their pharmacy license.
Despite winning their case after 12-day federal trial when the court found that the state’s law was “aimed at” conscientious objectors, the Stormans Family has been embroiled in an 8-year legal battle for their freedom. Today, ADF asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the Stormans' case and uphold this family's freedom and the freedom of all pharmacists in the state to live by their conscience, instead of forcing them to violate their beliefs.
Here are four reasons the Supreme Court should take their case:
1. Washington is the only state that doesn’t allow referrals to other pharmacies for conscience reasons
In 49 states in the U.S., it is standard practice to allow licensed pharmacists to refer a patient for all kinds of reasons—business, economic, convenience, and yes, religious or conscience-based reasons. In fact, major health organizations, such as the American Pharmacists Association, the Washington State Pharmacy Association, and over 30 other professional pharmacy groups, recognize and support these conscience-based referrals.
2. The state’s radical stance was driven by a controversial organization’s agenda
It raises the question: What made the state take such a radical stance on referrals? Why would the Washington State Pharmacy Commission choose to discriminate against religious pharmacists and their conscience-based reasons for deciding to refer customers to other local pharmacies for certain drugs?
Two words – Planned Parenthood.
Washington's referral law is based on rules drafted by Planned Parenthood at the request of former Governor Christine Gregoire. In 2005, Planned Parenthood and Gregoire began pressuring the Commission to prohibit conscience-based referrals for Plan B, threatening the members with personal liability under anti-discrimination laws if they voted to allow conscience-based referrals.
After the state’s Pharmacy Commission voted unanimously against the law, Gregoire replaced two Commission members. In 2007, the Commission enacted the Governor's rule requiring pharmacies to dispense Plan B and making conscience-based referrals illegal, despite continuing to allow pharmacies to refuse to stock it for other reasons.
3. The law is not only an extreme abuse of power by the State of Washington, but it completely disregards the established standard of care and the professionals who have dedicated their lives to improving patient health.
As the American Pharmacists Association, Washington State Pharmacy Association, and thirty-three other pharmacy organizations have explained, the regulations are “truly radical” and “grossly out of step with state regulatory practice.”
4. Allowing pharmacists to make conscience-based referrals does not impede women's access to abortion-inducing drugs.
The State of Washington has even admitted this fact. But instead of honoring decades of settled pharmacy practice, they still chose to single out religiously-motivated pharmacists, at the urging of a billion dollar organization that kills over 300,000 unborn babies a year, and force them to participate in what they consider to be an abortion.
“The state allows pharmacies to refer for all kinds of reasons. In practice, it only bans religiously motivated referrals,” said Kevin Stormans. “With more than 30 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the state demands that we violate our conscience or jeopardize our family business. All we are asking is to be able to live out the beliefs that we hold, as Americans have always been able to do, and to be able to refer patients for religious reasons, as the medical and pharmaceutical associations overwhelmingly recommend.”
Please Keep the Stormans Family in your Prayers
Eight years is a long time, but the Stormans Family has remained steadfast, relying on their faith and each other in the midst of an intense legal battle. Please keep them in your prayers and be praying that the Supreme Court will hear their case.