Americans United today praised a federal appellate court decision that will make it more likely that women in Washington state have access to emergency contraceptives from their local pharmacies.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court was wrong when it blocked a Washington state regulation requiring pharmacies to sell “Plan B” morning-after pills.
“The appeals court has done the right thing,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “States have every right to set policies that guarantee patients’ access to medical care.
“The Religious Right and its allies have been waging war on women’s access to reproductive health services,” he continued. “This is one battle that they have now lost.”
In 2007, the Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal group, sued on behalf of a pharmacy owner and two pharmacists. They argued that the regulation violates pharmacists’ religious freedom rights, even though under the rules, a pharmacist who objects can pass the prescription on to a colleague at the same store.
After the district court ruled in favor of the pharmacists, Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, asking the appellate panel to overturn the decision, which it has done.
The 9th Circuit panel sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings but strongly suggested that the Washington state regulations are constitutional and in the best interest of the patients.
The court also said that the regulation did not unfairly single out those with religious beliefs and that requiring pharmacies to fill prescriptions in a timely manner is a neutral rule that does not target religious beliefs for negative treatment.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.