This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Viewed from one angle, the state requirement that all pharmacies dispense Plan B – the “morning-after pill” – is a reasonable measure to guarantee women access to emergency birth control.
Viewed from another angle, that same requirement violates the consciences of pharmacists and pharmacy owners who regard Plan B as a potential means of abortion.
From the first angle, the state Board of Pharmacy’s rule is utterly reasonable. From the second, it is a bare-knuckled assault on religious freedom, particularly the freedom of Roman Catholics. The stark conflict between those two views is why the rule has been ping-ponging around the federal courts for five years now.
Once again, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton has ruled in favor of pharmacists who say the policy violates their First Amendment rights. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a similar decision he made in 2007 and sent the lawsuit back to him to apply a different legal standard. Leighton’s new decision could trigger another round of litigation if the state appeals it.
For advocates of Plan B – count us among them – this is not the end of the world.
The rule remains in place; Leighton’s ruling affects only the pharmacy and two pharmacists who challenged it. If it stands, it would obviously open the door for new challenges. But very few pharmacies seem interested in not selling Plan B.
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