OLYMPIA, Wash. — Seeking to safeguard the rights of pharmacists and pharmacies who choose not to stock or distribute abortion-inducing drugs on religious and moral grounds, ADF attorneys and allied attorneys filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court. They also asked the court on Thursday to halt enforcement of newly-passed regulations in the state while the case against the new rules moves forward.
The regulations mandate that pharmacies stock and dispense the so-called “morning-after” pill regardless of whether doing so would violate a health care provider’s conscience.
“The government cannot force pro-life or any other health care providers to violate their conscience simply to appease a political agenda,” said ADF-allied attorney Kristen Waggoner of Seattle-based law firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC. “The morning-after pill is widely accessible in this state. The handful of health care providers who have a strong moral objection to participating in taking innocent human life should be allowed to refer customers to someone who does not have a moral objection to stocking or dispensing the drug. Under the new rules, their rights are not respected and they may lose their jobs.”
Before the new regulations passed, Kevin Stormans, an owner of Ralph’s Thriftway, received a call inquiring about whether the store supplied the pill. After Stormans told the caller that Ralph’s did not carry it, he received numerous complaints via phone and e-mail from unidentified individuals. After researching the pill and its effects, Stormans, a Christian, concluded the store would not stock it based on religious and moral grounds. A few activists then began to picket Ralph’s and filed complaints with the Washington Board of Pharmacy. The board initiated an investigation about the store’s position but took no action. It later opened another investigation against Ralph’s and referred the matter to its legal counsel for further review.
ADF and its allied attorneys represent Stormans, Inc., along with two Christian pharmacists, Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen. Both choose not to dispense the pill based on their moral and religious beliefs about the sanctity of human life. The pill can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. Some health care providers, including the plaintiffs, believe that human life begins at fertilization and that the pill destroys innocent life.
“Health care providers should not be forced to choose between keeping their jobs and adhering to their faith and moral code,” said ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb. “Honoring a person’s right of conscience will not stop anyone from having their prescriptions filled.”
In March 2006, ADF attorneys sent a letter to the pharmacy board urging them to adopt a “conscience clause” protecting the right of conscience for pharmacists.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.