Rule Requires Pharmacists Dispense EC Violates Civil Rights

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A pharmacy owner and two pharmacists in Washington state on Wednesdayin federal court filed a lawsuit claiming that a Washington Board of Pharmacy rule that took effect on Thursday and requires pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception violates their civil rights, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse (AP/International Herald Tribune, 7/27).

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Therule says that pharmacists cannot "obstruct a patient in obtaining alawfully prescribed drug or device" and must make an alternativeavailable in a timely fashion if they "cannot dispense" a prescription.A proposal adopted by the Board of Pharmacy says that pharmacists havea "duty to dispense lawfully prescribed ... drugs or medical devices."It also lists exceptions to the rule, which do not include personalbeliefs (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report,9/5/06). Under the rule, pharmacists who are opposed to EC can haveanother pharmacist fill the prescription, but only if the patient canreceive the prescription during the same pharmacy visit.

Thesuit alleges that the rule forces the plaintiffs to choose between"their livelihoods and their deeply held religious and moral beliefs."The company Stormans -- which owns Ralph's Thriftwaypharmacy in Olympia, Wash. -- and pharmacists Rhonda Mesler and MargoThelen are the plaintiffs in the case. Lars Erickson, spokesperson forGov. Chris Gregoire (D), on Thursday said the governor "feels thepharmacy board went through an extensive public process to come totheir decision, and she supports" it (AP/International Herald Tribune, 7/27).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily Women's Health Policy Report, search thearchives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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