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Washington State Pharmacists Have Duty to Fill Plan B Prescriptions

Washington, DC, July 8, 2010 

The American Humanist Association expressed disappointment today that the Washington State Board of Pharmacy backed down on a rule requiring pharmacists to fill all doctors’ prescriptions, including the controversial Plan B emergency contraceptive. The rule was the subject of a court case, Stormans Inc. v. Selecky, that was about to go to trial on remand, and the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, legal arm of the American Humanist Association, had argued in a 2008 “friend of the court” brief that the rule did not improperly impinge upon the religious freedom rights of pharmacists who may have objections to emergency contraception. However, the Board of Pharmacy has negotiated a pre-trial compromise in which they pledged to adopt an amended rule that would permit pharmacies and pharmacists to issue facilitated referrals when they object to filling a prescription for any reason.

“Pharmacists and pharmacies have a duty to dispense lawful medications to patients notwithstanding any personal qualms they may have about specific medications,” said Bob Ritter, staff attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association. “Though pharmacies should accommodate religious beliefs when possible, the rights of the patient to receive needed medication takes precedence.”

Regulations were originally put in place by the pharmacy board in 2007 after it became aware that pharmacists in Washington were refusing on religious grounds to fill prescriptions for medicines such as birth control and the morning-after pill. However, the regulations appropriately accommodated pharmacists’ religious beliefs by allowing them to have a colleague at the same store fill the prescription (if the other pharmacist was willing to do so).

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.


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