U.S. Supreme Court Lets Ruling Stand Requiring Christian Pharmacy to Stock Morning-After Pill

Ralphs-compressedWASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a ruling to stand that requires the owner of a Washington pharmacy, along with two of his pharmacists, to stock the morning-after pill despite their religious convictions regarding abortifacients.

As previously reported, in 2006, Ralph’s Thriftway owner, Kevin Stormans, received a call inquiring whether the location sold the morning-after pill. After replying that the pharmacy did not carry it, he began to receive anonymous complaints via phone and email. Ralph’s Thriftway was soon also picketed and complaints were filed with the Washington Board of Pharmacy, which launched an investigation.

The following year, the state passed regulations requiring that pharmacies stock and dispense the morning-after pill, and the legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit on behalf of Stormans and two of his pharmacists, Rhonda Mesler and Margo Thelen, who objected to the requirement because of their Christian faith.

The pharmacy had asked for the right to provide referrals rather than provide Plan B and Ella themselves, but while the regulations allow for referrals for a number of reasons, religious protections are not included.

“No one should be forced to choose between their religious convictions and their family businesses and livelihoods, particularly when the state allows referrals for just about any other reason,” said ADF Senior Vice President of Legal Services Kristen Waggoner.

In 2012, a federal court ruled in favor of Ralph’s Thriftway, stating that the new regulations “appear to intentionally place a significant burden on the free exercise of religion for those who believe life begins at conception.”

“[The rules] were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The rules are unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs,” it declared.

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But the matter soon moved to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the regulations were placed on hold while the matter proceeded in court. Last July, the court unanimously ruled that Ralph’s Thriftway must stock the drugs despite the pharmacy’s religious objections.

“The rules are rationally related to Washington’s legitimate interest in ensuring that its citizens have safe and timely access to their lawful and lawfully prescribed medications,” Judge Susan Graber wrote for the panel. “Speed is particularly important considering the time-sensitive nature of emergency contraception and of many other medications.”

She said that “the commission’s decision not to allow facilitated referrals falls within its stated goal of ensuring timely and safe delivery of prescription medications and, accordingly, does not demonstrate discriminatory intent.”

Ralph’s Thriftway consequently appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but on Tuesday, the justices declined to hear the case, allowing the lower court ruling requiring that the contraceptives be stocked to stand. Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications,” Alito wrote. “[T]here is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the state.”

“Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time,” he lamented. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represented Ralph’s Thriftway in court, likewise expressed disappointment.

“All Americans should be free to peacefully live and work consistent with their faith without fear of unjust punishment, and no one should be forced to participate in the taking of human life,” said Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner. “We had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would take this opportunity to reaffirm these long-held principles.”

“The state of Washington allows pharmacists to refer customers for just about any reason—except reasons of conscience,” she explained. “Singling out people of faith and denying them the same freedom to refer is a violation of federal law.”

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  • bowie1

    Just another example of the culture of death which imposes itself on those who promote life instead.

  • hytre64

    This court decision would be comparable to forcing ALL physicians to perform abortions upon demand of their patients.

    At least, here in Illinois, there is a religious exemption written into law for pharmacists.

    • The Skeptical Chymist

      No, the Washington law permits a pharmacist to be excused from filling a prescription to which he/she has a religious objection. It requires the pharmacy to have someone available who will provide that service, however. A more accurate analogy would be if all hospitals were required to have someone on the staff who is willing to perform abortions.

  • TheBottomline4This

    Most Liberals are so into death.
    Abortions, assisted suicides, death of certain things in culture,
    They are blinded to what they really are supporting.
    Yet, they cry for gun control to “save lives”.
    Hypocrites much?

  • brine

    Like Hitler believed…you can’t let your immorality reign without removing people who might have moral objections from Business, Medical, Dental, and Educational positions…we haven’t seen nothing yet…but Christians that are reading shouldn’t be surprised about days such as this. We no longer even attempt to ‘hide our sins in our skirts’ but proudly flaunt them and demand that if there are objections to remove yourself from society…bow down to the State or else.

    • Horatio Socks

      Yup…. all of our jobs are up for grabs. At least to those who profess Christ.

  • Theodore Fenton

    Instead of demanding special rights, it might be better to consider a different line of work, perhaps with religiously-affiliated organizations.

    • hytre64

      Employers are making all types of accommodations for their employees, whether it is for religious reasons, gender, disabilities, etc.

      The State, supposedly, must show a compelling reason to violate someone’s religious liberty, and then needs to do it in the least infringing way possible.

      Your suggestion would make Christians into second-class citizens – barred from psychiatry, counselling, anything that could possibly be involved in weddings (Photography, bakery, reception areas, etc.), and pharmacology.

      • Theodore Fenton

        Some are simply not suited to particular professions or business pursuits.

        • hytre64

          So, you are saying that someone who has gone through Six years of college to get their masters in Pharmacology is “simply not suited” to be a pharmacist?

      • This style ten and six

        If Christians want to discriminate against particular groups of people for reasons of their own then perhaps they should find employment elsewhere. If a person has a prescription for medication then they have the right to believe any pharmacist will fill it.

        • Oboehner

          If others want to discriminate against Christians, ok.
          The morning after pill is hardly “medicine”.

          • This style ten and six

            It is legal medication.

          • Horatio Socks

            No, it’s a legal abortion. Doctors are to do no harm. I guess murder isn’t harm now?

          • This style ten and six

            Preventing a zygote from implanting in the womb is not murder. It is perfectly legal.

          • Horatio Socks

            You are murdering life. Call it a zyrgote next time you or someone else you know is preggo!

          • This style ten and six

            ‘Preggo’ means nothing to me, it seems to be a word you have invented.

            Women who take a morning after pill do not end up in jail, how then, is it murder?

          • Jalapeno

            It’s contraception.

            The morning after pill hasn’t actually been shown to work AT ALL if the egg is fertilised, they just haven’t been able to prove that it is impossible.

            In reality, it works by preventing the egg from being fertilised in the first place.

          • Oboehner

            It is nothing more than a matter of convenience.

          • This style ten and six

            It is very convenient, isn’t it.

          • Oboehner

            Sure, trampling the rights of some for the convenience of others.

          • This style ten and six

            Contraception tramples rights!

          • Oboehner

            “Contraception” is a personal luxury item, it has nothing too do with others or “healthcare”.

          • This style ten and six

            You should come out of the dark ages. You do realise we are in the twenty first century?

            Good contraception has liberated women and been a benefit to our societies. More women n the work force, politics, academia can only be a good thing. Not to mention that there are fewer unwanted children.

          • Oboehner


            Right, “good contraception” has made promiscuity rampant bringing with it waves of family break-ups, STD’s and the like – how 21st century! Viva AIDS!!

          • This style ten and six

            You spell your way, I’ll spell in mine. The US isn’t the only English speaking country.

          • Oboehner

            So you don’t have a site nearby you can troll on?

          • This style ten and six

            This site is right here on my laptop!

          • Oboehner

            Trollin’, trollin, trollin’.

          • This style ten and six

            If you say so, no skin off my nose.

        • Horatio Socks

          I’m sure you’re the first to say if you don’t like the channel switch it! So, if you don’t like the pharmacy…. switch it!

          • This style ten and six

            The analogy doesn’t stand up. A pharmacy is a business open to the public and cannot pick who it serves. Once you allow one form of discrimination you open the door for everything. What’s next, no Irish?

          • Horatio Socks

            Television is open to the public as well. They travel over the public airwaves as well. Of course it stands up. YOU know your argument doesn’t stand, So, once you allow one form of discrimination, YOU OPEN the door to it. So, what’s next? When you going after Muslims pal?

          • This style ten and six

            You don’t make sense, TV channels have nothing to do with the right of a person to expect a business open to the public to serve them. And how do Muslims get in here?

          • Horatio Socks

            Television – open for business
            Pharmacy – open for business
            Television – open to public for business by purchasing products
            Pharmacy – open to public for business by purchasing products

            Muslim….. think semi hard about that! 🙂

          • This style ten and six

            As I said, you don’t make sense.

  • The secularists are showing their true colors. They hate Christ and all His people. This is a war on God and His Commandments. Let there be no doubt: these are the same people that burned Christians at the stake, threw us to the lions, and sent us to Siberia’s gulags.
    “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”
    (Rev 18:4-5)

  • Will we quietly let them round us up and load us into cattle cars?

  • Fred Cox

    So if a pharmacy closes and someone has to go to another location to obtain an abortifacient, how is that different from being referred to another pharmacy?.. will a business be forced to continue once opened?

  • Coach

    Tyranny, most people are so stupid, they assume the government is making things better. They want control, that’s why you can murder your baby in the womb, yet you could be arrested for not giving your child his/her psychotic drugs. The gospel which is heavily opposed, changes everything.
    Why are people stupid? They head for the lake of fire full speed, pushing aside anyone who would suggest they repent and believe the gospel.

    -Former stupid person