News Plan B Plan B
posted by December 10 at 17:21 PMon
I’ve linked the press release below, but here’s the basic news: The Northwest Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU are appealing last month’s District Court injunction which prevents patients from getting Plan B if a pharmacist or pharmacy doesn’t feel like filling the prescription.
The legal logistics are a little confusing, but in short: State rules passed earlier this year mandated that if a pharmacist felt they couldn’t fill a Plan B prescription for religious reasons, the pharmacy had to figure out another way to accommodate the patient—have another pharmacist fill the prescription, for example.
Stormen’s Inc. and two individual pharmacists sued in July and the District Judge said last month that the rules were void until his official decision came down (after a trial). With that, the judge also offered a preliminary analysis indicating he would ultimately throw the rules out altogether after the trial.
Today’s appeal from the Northwest Women’s Law Center does two things. 1. It says: We don’t want to wait for the official decision. We want to take the issue to the U.S. Court of Appeals (the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.) now. And 2. In the mean time, toss the injunction.
As it stands right now, if a pharmacist doesn’t want to fill your Plan B prescription, you’re SOL.
So, today’s appeal is cool. But something has come to my attention in all this. Previous rules—also (inadvertently) upended by District judge—mandate that pharmacies (not pharmaicsts), pharmacies must stock Plan B, or any drug that the community demands.
That seems weird to me. Should the state be able to tell a private business that it must sell a certain item. I agree that the state should be able to tell certain manufacturers how to build products so they’re safe and the state should be able to mandate safety and non-discrimination rules in the workplace, but dictating what products go on shelves?
Yes, if a pharmacy carries Plan B, I believe a dissident pharmacist shouldn’t be able to prevent a patient from getting her prescription filled. But I don’t think a pharmacy should have to carry Plan B if the owner doesn’t want to.
Ruling Limiting Access to Medicine Is Appealed
Health Group Leaders Applaud Appeal of
Injunction Blocking Pharmacy Board Rules
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Northwest Women’s Law Center and Planned Parenthood of Western Washington today announced they are appealing a court ruling that blocks enforcement of Washington Pharmacy Board rules ensuring access to medications. The organizations, along with the firm Heller Ehrman LLP, are representing seven concerned citizens from around the state who have been allowed to intervene in the case.
The organizations say the lower court ruling misconstrues well-established legal precedent, and are confident that the regulations will be upheld and fully reinstated on appeal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear the appeal.
The intervenors also are asking the lower court to stay the injunction and not to move forward toward a trial until the appeal has been resolved.
Leaders of health care groups are backing the action. “We applaud the decision to appeal the court’s order blocking enforcement of the pharmacy board rules,” said Ania Beszterda, Lead Policy and Community Advocate for Lifelong AIDS Alliance. “People across the state need to know that they can get their prescriptions filled without discrimination or difficulty.”
“In rural communities, especially, a pharmacy refusing to dispense creates a real barrier to care. There are fewer pharmacies, so patients have less choice. It’s unacceptable to expect people to drive another 30 or 40 miles in hopes of finding a pharmacy that will fill their prescription,” said Dian Cooper, executive director of the Cowlitz Family Health Center, a community health clinic in Longview.
On Nov. 8, U. S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton issued a preliminary injunction putting on hold rules enacted by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy in April 2007.
The rules (WAC 246-869-010 and WAC 246-863-095) were adopted after a lengthy rule-making process, including numerous public hearings, to protect patients’ access to lawful prescription medications and medications with restricted distribution without discrimination or delay.
Under these rules, if a pharmacist objects to dispensing a particular medication for personal, moral, or religious reasons, the pharmacy can accommodate the objecting pharmacist. But in all cases, the pharmacy must fill the prescription in a timely manner.
When the rules took effect in July, two individual pharmacists and a pharmacy owner (Stormans, Inc.) sued the State of Washington, challenging the new rules. The plaintiffs want pharmacies to be allowed to refuse to fill customers’ requests for valid prescriptions that conflict with personal beliefs. In court papers filed in August, the intervenors asserted public health concerns, saying patients should be allowed to promptly obtain needed medications.
The Washington State Pharmacy Association, which represents the pharmacy profession, participated in the rule-making and supported the challenged rules during the rule-making process. More than 70 organizations, including Senior Services of Seattle/King County, the American Academy of Pediatrics - Washington Chapter, and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs also support the rules.
Handling the case for the intervenors are Rima Alaily, Molly Terwilliger and Matthew Carvalho of the firm Heller Ehrman LLP; Sarah Dunne and Aaron Caplan of the ACLU of Washington; Nancy Sapiro of the Northwest Women’s Law Center; and Kelly Reese of Planned Parenthood of Western Washington.