In a unanimous decision, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld rules issued by the State of Washington requiring all state-licensed pharmacies to provide timely delivery of all prescription medications to patients. The court rejected claims that requiring pharmacies to sell certain prescription birth control drugs violated the constitutional rights of pharmacy owners who have religious objections to birth control. The Washington rules that were upheld require that at least one pharmacist working for the pharmacy provide timely delivery of any validly prescribed medication.
The Seattle-based women’s rights organization Legal Voice advocated before the Washington Board of Pharmacy urging adoption of the rules in 2005. When pharmacy owners challenged the rules, Legal Voice intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of five women of reproductive age and two HIV-positive patients to ensure all patients’ access to safe, legal, and necessary health care.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) filed a brief in the case Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman on behalf of AIDS United, the Disability Rights Legal Center, the Gay And Lesbian Medical Association, Lambda Legal, the Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston, Inc., the Mautner Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Coalition For LGBT Health, the Transgender Law Center, and the World Aids Institute.
NCLR’s brief emphasized the importance of timely access to medications and other health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS. The brief describes the serious harms caused by unequal access to medical care and discrimination by health care providers.
NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said, “Today’s decision recognizes the importance to all people of timely access to medications and other health care. As the court recognized, it is reasonable for a state to require licensed pharmacies to offer all medications prescribed to their patients. While we support reasonable workplace accommodations for persons of diverse faiths, religious objections should never be allowed to put the health and well-being of others at risk. Rules requiring pharmacies to offer all prescribed drugs do not infringe upon the religious freedom of pharmacy owners, but simply ensure that all people have timely access to health care.”