Back in 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy -- with the explicit support of the state's governor, Christine Gregoire -- put in place a rule that requires pharmacies to fill customer prescriptions for legal medications regardless of how individual pharmacists may feel about whether these products should or should not be legal. The issue that drove the Board to implement this rule initially was concern over access to contraception in general, but specifically to Plan B, or the "morning after pill," which a particular grocery store in the state had refused to stock and dispense, citing "moral objection."
Once the 2007 rule was put in place, that grocer -- Ralph's Thriftway in Olympia, WA -- filed suit against the pharmacy board, seeking to overturn it. That lawsuit has dragged on all these years, with no resolution -- even though both public and judicial support falls distinctly in favor of upholding the 2007 measure and protecting women's access to the contraception of their choice.
Now, however, there is a new and troubling twist to the story: just recently, instead of letting the case go to court, the state's Attorney General attempted to negotiate a settlement between the Board and the suing pharmacists -- urging the Board to put in place a new rule, which would "[allow] druggists to refer patients to a different pharmacy" for service, "including for conscientious reasons." This would effectively overturn the 2007 rule, and provide cover for business owners and pharmacists to opt-out of providing customers with medications that they find "morally objectionable."
The people of Washington State have apparently been none too pleased to learn about the AG's actions -- or that the Board has since voted 3-2 to put this new rule in place. (Of particular note: two out of the three women who serve on the pharmacy board voted against accepting the AG's suggestion; the third woman was not present when the vote was taken.) To date, thousands of people have spoken out on the issue by sending letters directly to the pharmacy board; 4 out of every 5 comments has registered support for retaining the 2007 rule.
We're proud to report that Ms. Foundation grantee NARAL Pro Choice Washington is playing an active role in opposing these new limits on women's reproductive choices. The group has launched an online campaign that allows Washington State residents to send comments directly to the pharmacy board members -- and to Governor Gregoire -- to share their concern about pharmacies being allowed to take the law into their own hands. The decision is not yet written in stone -- people have until November 30 to urge the Board to reconsider its stance.
So if you're a Washington State resident, link up with NARAL -- and act now. Don't let your rights slip away without a fight!