Appeals court hears emergency contraceptives case

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Federal appeals court judges have challenged the state of Washington’s decision to force a pharmacy to prescribe emergency contraceptives, but also have questioned the pharmacy owners’ dedication to public health.

Thursday’s arguments before a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel took place more than seven years after the Washington state Pharmacy Board ruled that pharmacies could not refuse to sell a lawful product like the emergency contraceptive Plan B because of moral or religious beliefs.

Two pharmacists and an Olympia pharmacy owner sued the state in 2007, arguing their constitutional religious rights were being violated.

A compromise rule was adopted that allowed individual pharmacists who had moral objections to pass the sale to another employee in the same store, provided the patient’s order was filled without delay. But that left few options for a lone pharmacist or for a pharmacy owner who has moral objections to a particular drug.

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