Stormans v. Wiesman
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Description: For four generations, Kevin Stormans’ family has owned Ralph’s Thriftway, a store located in Washington state. Regulations passed by the Washington State Pharmacy Board in mid-2007 mandated that pharmacies like Ralph’s Thriftway must stock and dispense the “morning-after” pill if requested by a patient. Stormans chose not to stock the product in his pharmacy after reading research demonstrating that the pill can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, an early-stage abortion procedure which Stormans opposes on religious, moral, and ethical grounds. Stormans, Inc., and two pharmacists, Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, who work elsewhere, are challenging the regulations in federal court.
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Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the Seattle law firm Ellis, Li & McKinstry represent clients opposed to Washington state regulations that would force them to dispense the “Plan B” and “ella” drugs in violation of their religious convictions rather than allow them to refer patients to other nearby pharmacies.
“No one should be forced to choose between their deepest religious convictions and their profession,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner, a former partner at Ellis, Li & McKinstry and lead counsel for the plaintiffs challenging the state regulations. “Washington’s law is an extreme outlier. Many of the most respected medical and pharmaceutical associations, including the American Pharmacists Association, support the right of a provider to refer patients. The state allows providers to refer for nearly every other reason except conscience.”
After a 12-day trial in 2011, a federal district court in Washington suspended the state’s regulations. The ruling permitted the two pharmacists and the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia to continue to refer customers rather than sell the drugs, which can terminate human life after conception.
The district court found that the state adopted its new regulations “primarily (if not solely)” to ban religiously motivated referrals while the state, at the same time, permits pharmacies to refrain from stocking and delivering drugs for “almost unlimited” business, economic, and convenience reasons. The state and attorneys from Planned Parenthood appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit.
In its opinion, the district court observed, “The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable. They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The rules are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs.”
“The government cannot say that referrals motivated by profit or preference are okay, but referrals motivated by a religious belief are not,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden.
As the brief filed with the 9th Circuit explains, “it is undisputed that the effect of the Regulations is to force Plaintiffs to choose between their religious exercise and their profession. That is a deeply troubling result in light of Hobby Lobby. It is all the more troubling when the State has stipulated that Plaintiff’s conduct causes no harm; when there is ‘an existing, recognized, workable, and already-implemented’ alternative that fully meets the State’s goals…; when the State regularly permits that alternative for a host of non-religious reasons; and when 35 state and national pharmacy associations fully support the use of that alternative for religious reasons.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
Additional resources: Stormans v. Wiesman
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Previous news releases:
- 2012-02-22: Court: Wash. pharmacists can’t be forced to violate their consciences
- 2010-07-14: Patients’ health, pharmacists’ conscience protected in Wash., court agrees to halt trial
- 2008-07-07: ADF attorney available to media following ‘right of conscience’ hearing
- 2008-05-02: 9th Circuit thwarts Wash. state’s attempt to stall conscience rights
- 2007-11-08: Court stops enforcement of Wash. regulations targeting pharmacists, pharmacies who don’t stock abortion drugs
- 2007-09-25: ADF-allied attorneys available to the media following hearing on Washington “right of conscience” case
- 2007-07-27: ADF: Health care providers should not be forced to distribute abortion-inducing drugs in Washington State
- 2006-03-14: ADF defends right of conscience for pharmacists
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