Just after striking down part of a Texas law to protect women’s health during abortion procedures, the US Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear a case brought by pharmacists in Washington who do not want to sell morning-after and week-after abortion pills.
The Washington law mandates pharmacy owners and pharmacists to sell the abortifacients, rather than allowing them to refer customers to nearby pharmacies.
Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom protested the Court decision.
“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,” she said. “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.
“Singling out people of faith and denying them the same freedom to refer is a violation of federal law. All 49 other states allow conscience-based referrals, which are fully supported by the American Pharmacists Association, the Washington Pharmacy Association, and 36 other pharmacy associations. Not one customer in Washington has been denied timely access to any drug due to a religious objection. As the trial court found, the government designed its law for the ‘primary—if not sole—purpose’ of targeting religious health care providers. We are disappointed that the high court didn’t take this case and uphold the trial court’s finding.”
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented from the denial and would have agreed to hear the case.
Excerpt from the dissent:
“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. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there 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. 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…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.