Ninth Circuit Court: WA Can Force Pharmacists to Sell Plan B

In the latest development in a case that has lasted nearly a decade, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Washington State can force a pharmacy to sell Plan B despite their moral objections to doing so.

Plan B is a drug many object to because they believe it causes an early state abortion.

In 2007, the Washington State Board of Health created new rules stating that pharmacies must stock and sell Plan B. However, Ralph’s Thriftway challenged the rule and a judge ruled that the First Amendment protected their right to refer customers rather than sell a drug they objected to on moral grounds.

In their ruling yesterday, the Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

Kevin Stormans, President of Stormans Inc, which owns Ralph’s Thriftway, pointed out the irrationality of this decision in light of the general right pharmacists have to give referrals generally. “The state allows pharmacies to refer for all kinds of reasons. In practice, it only bans religiously motivated referrals.”

Mr. Stormans continued, “With 33 pharmacies stocking the drug within five miles of our store, it is extremely disappointing that the court and the state demand that we violate our conscience or lose our family business.”

Kristen Waggoner, lead counsel in the case and Senior Vice President of Legal Services at the Alliance Defending Freedom, noted that, “This case will affect many facilities within the state, including Catholic hospitals and pharmacies, which have made clear they will not dispense these drugs.”

Washington’s Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, who is also suing Arlene’s Flowers because she declined to decorate for a same-sex wedding, called the decision “a major victory for the people of Washington.”

Luke Goodrich, an Attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which helped defend the pharmacists, noted that “no patient has ever been denied timely access to any drug.”

But that didn’t matter.

The Court of Appeals said it was important for states to have the power to force pharmacists to violate their beliefs because, “facilitated referrals could lead to feelings of shame in the patient that could dissuade her from obtaining emergency contraception altogether.”

The Oregon Labor Commission similarly cited hurt feelings to justify a $135,000 fine against a bakery that did not want to bake a same-sex wedding cake. In addition, Justice Kennedy’s decision redefining marriage similarly argued that acknowledging the difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships condemns people to “live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”

While traditionally the job of courts has been to interpret the law, the fact that the courts have appointed themselves guardians of the people’s feelings can only be a bad thing for freedom.

Attorneys for Ralph’s Thriftway have pledged to appeal the ruling. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most frequently overturned.

What can you do in response to this decision?

  1. Contact your legislator and ask them to support legislation that allows Washingtonians to live and work according to their beliefs without fear of unreasonable government intrusion. You can reach them at the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 or email them by clicking here.
  2. If you disagree with Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s belief that this decision is “a major victory for the people of Washington”, call him at 360-753-6200 and let him know.
  3. Forward this email to someone who shares your concern about the rapid loss of liberty and encourage them to do the same. We are the solution to our problems.

Remember, in politics silence is consent. Always be respectful, but don’t be silent.

This story has been edited from its original version to correctly identify the lead counsel in the case. 7/24/15 11:11 am

9 replies
  1. Saint John the Baptist
    Saint John the Baptist says:

    Wendy: The pharmacy is not discriminating against anyone. They simply refuse to sell a product that violates their religious (Christian) beliefs. You going to have the government force a kosher Jewish deli into selling ham sandwiches?

    • yaki534
      yaki534 says:

      That is why they are called the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals. If they shared a brain between them all they might have one.

  2. Wendy Wright
    Wendy Wright says:

    Discrimination is discrimination. A business (and business owner) cannot discriminate against people with whom he/she disagree. You put in any other phrase “too short, too tall, too fat, black, mentally challenged” and the business owner would be charged with discrimination. This is the same kind of thinking that was prevalent in the 1960’s when African Americans could not eat at a lunch counter, or use a “white only bathroom”. Women were not allowed to hold certain jobs. If a business owner does not want to treat ALL customers fairly, then he/she should not be in business. Go get a job as a mail carrier.

  3. David Ozanne
    David Ozanne says:

    If I were the pharmacist, I would have a 10000% markup and inform the person wanting it that my price was???? and also inform them that the pharmacy down the road sold it much cheaper.

  4. Saint John the Baptist
    Saint John the Baptist says:

    TxKeith: So what is the problem when a Christian owned pharmacy business refuses to provide a drug that violates the owners religious beliefs? The drug is readily available at other pharmacies. You also going to have the government force Christian gynecologists to perform abortions? No one has the right to the labor of another. That is known as slavery and it was abolished years ago.

  5. Tionico
    Tionico says:

    FASCISM DEFINED: government control of private means of prioduction. Any business takes their assets (capital, space, expertise, time, labour, experience) and turns it to produce some good or service. A pharmacy is no different. The Storman family have operated this “private means of production” for decades. Now government is intruding, demanding they conduct this business according to certain arbitrary standards. That IS fascism, by definition.

    Same with that wretch Ferguson’s illegal and arbitrary persuit of Baronelle Stutzman for deferring the participation in an event she finds morally wrong, based on long held beliefs based on solid evidence. I remember back when Queen Christine bullied the state Pharmacy Board to change the rules to force Storman’s to change their policy. When they would not, she replaced some of the board members until they did. This is representative government? No, it is am abomination.

    What is interesting, howeve,r is this: the State have pushed this case higher and higher. Storman’s have not backed down. When one reads Article 3 of our Constitution, federlal levl courts are given certain limits as to what types of cases they can take up. Since this case does not fall within those boundaries, even the Ninth Circus taking it up is illegal. Storman’s lawyers should make a point of this. Ferguson is nuts… his personal moral corruption is certainly visible to any who care to open their eyes. He never should have persude this, nor should he be persuing Arlene’s Flowers.

  6. Bob B
    Bob B says:

    The legislation specifically says a pharmacist can defer to another pharmacist, the ruling was about the obligations of the pharmacy.

    This is the same error we see regarding all these cases, confusing a particular person (pharmacist) with a ruling about a business (pharmacy)

    • TXKeith
      TXKeith says:

      That is a distinction without merit. A pharmacy business has its own policies, which all pharmacists in that business must follow. What if there is only one pharmacist working a small family business? Or what if every pharmacist at a business refuses?

      • Bob B
        Bob B says:

        This is a large company with a number of employees, full-time, part-time and contract.

        If and when your hypotheticals occur that will need addressing, but this is about Thriftway and it very much is a difference of distinction.

        A pharmacist isn’t a pharmacy. Inaccurate reporting is just lying.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.