- Relationships & Family > Reproductive Justice
- Discrimination > Healthcare
- Discrimination > Faith & Religion
In 2007, The Washington State Board of Pharmacy began requiring that pharmacists provide patients with prescribed medications if those medications are in stock. That rule was implemented to ensure that patients have timely access to medications. Additionally, pursuant to a long-standing rule governing which medications a pharmacy should have on its shelves, pharmacies would have to begin stocking Plan B, a prescription contraceptive. A pharmacy and two pharmacists sued the Washington State Board of Pharmacy alleging that its rules violated their religious liberty because they could not refuse to stock or dispense Plan B if a patient provided a valid prescription and payment for the medication.
NCLR filed an amicus brief in support of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy on behalf of a coalition of civil rights groups. The brief focused on the experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and people living with HIV and AIDS who were denied time-sensitive health care. In particular, the brief outlined the significant harm caused by those refusals including increasing negative health outcomes by increasing the patient’s stress levels, exacerbating existing medical conditions, perpetuating stigma, creating mistrust of providers, and leading patients to delay seeking necessary care. Because of the critical importance of ensuring that all patients have timely access to needed medications, the brief asked the appeals court to uphold the Washington State Board of Pharmacy’s authority to enact and enforce its patient access rules.
On July 25, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the rules against the pharmacists’ constitutional challenge, concluding that they were neutral with respect to religion and furthered Washington’s interest in patient safety .