The four-year legal fight over who must provide “morning-after” contraceptives like Plan B lands in a Seattle courtroom Monday, testing Washington state Pharmacy Board rules requiring pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community demand.
At issue in the four-day U.S. District Court trial is the right of the Ralphs Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia, and two licensed Washington pharmacists Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, to refuse to stock or dispense a lawful medical treatment on grounds of religious conscience. Plan B is considered most effective in preventing an unwanted pregnancy if a woman takes it within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
The state Pharmacy Board has had a rule on the books since 1967 requiring pharmacies to stock and provide medications that are in demand in their communities. Gov. Chris Gregoire and reproductive rights groups favor the requirements, which have been amended since 2007 to let pharmacists withdraw if others can fill the order.