Small pharma takes on the state


Can a state force pharmacists to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs at the expense of their religious beliefs? This is the central issue in a case the US Supreme Court may agree to hear in its next term.

In 2007, the State of Washington passed a law requiring all pharmacies to deliver “all lawfully prescribed drugs or devices” in a timely manner to all customers. This “Delivery Rule” contains several exemptions such as business or convenience reasons for not stocking certain drugs, but there is no exemption for religious objections.

A small family-run grocery store and pharmacy in the state was investigated by the  Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission for refusing to stock any form of abortifacient, such as Plan B. The Stormans family, which owns the store, cites religious beliefs as its justification for refusing to stock abortifacient drugs. The Stormans believe that by dispensing these drugs, they would be aiding in the destruction of human life, directly contradicting their Christian faith.

Although the Stormans’ store does not carry Plan B, if a customer requests it, employees provide a list of local pharmacies and drug stores that carry the drug, even going so far as to call other pharmacies to confirm that the drug is in stock.

Abortion activists were not happy with this and began sending test shoppers to the store. They then filed complaints with the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission after they received a referral rather than a filled prescription. This led to an investigation, and the store was threatened with losing its pharmacy license.

How long will it be before the newly emboldened and militant pro-abortion activists in Ireland begin targeting Irish pharmacists to deprive them of their right to exercise their religious beliefs? Probably not until they see the outcome from their battle to deny the unborn their right to life enshrined in the Republic’s constitution and in a more limited way in the statute law of Northern Ireland.

In the US case, the Stormans defended their rights by filing suit against the State of Washington, arguing that the Delivery Rule violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, among other claims. The federal district court vindicated their right and ruled in favour of the Stormans. However, the pro-abortion activists wanted their pound of flesh and pushed for an appeal. On appeal, a three-judge court panel reversed the district court decision. Now the Stormans have petitioned the Supreme Court to review their case, which the Court should consider sometime in March.

More detail on this story here.

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