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Washington Judge Rules against Access to Emergency Contraception

US District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last week that pharmacists in the state of Washington can continue to refuse to sell emergency contraception (EC). Two Washington State Pharmacy Board rules issued last year require pharmacies to provide EC for all women. However, two pharmacists and a pharmacy owner filed a lawsuit against the rules in July, claiming that requiring pharmacies to dispense EC is a violation of civil rights, reports the Daily Women’s Health Policy Report.

Last Friday, Judge Leighton denied the state Department of Health and the Board of Pharmacy’s request to lift the injunction he had imposed after the lawsuit last year. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, pharmacists and pharmacies can continue to refuse to sell EC because of so-called “religious objections.” Some pharmacists still refer to EC as an “abortive agent” even though research shows it will not affect a woman who is already pregnant.

The Seattle Times reports that the Washington Department of Health and the Board of Pharmacy argued that Judge Leighton’s injunction “broadly infringes” on the legal right of citizens to obtain plan B, “placing the public at greater risk of denial of access to care.” NARAL Pro-Choice Washington released a report earlier this month that found 10 percent of pharmacies in Washington either do not carry EC or have a pharmacist who refuses to dispense it.

Karen Cooper, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, defended the Washington State Pharmacy Board rules saying, “Patient access to appropriate care should not be undermined by personal, non-medical judgments.”

Sources:

Daily Women's Health Report 02/20/08; The Seattle Times 02/16/08; The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 02/15/08; NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Press Release 02/15/08

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