This Washington

Pharmacy Board Rejects Attempt to Weaken Access to Plan B

By Laura Hawkins December 16, 2010

In a large and sparsely populated conference room in Renton this morning, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy voted to preserve its original rules requiring pharmacies to provide Plan B to patients—even though individual pharmacists may still refuse on moral grounds.

Board members emphasized their decision was based not on support of pharmacists' morality or the "conscience clause"  said board member Vandana Slatter — but on their contention that the system is already working to ensure patient access to medication. That is, even if one pharmacist refuses to provide Plan B (or any medication) to a patient, the pharmacy as a whole is still required to do so.

This is great news for women's rights advocates and patients. Back in July, the board had contemplated scaling back its rules to allow "facilitated referrals," meaning a pharmacy could refuse to fill a scrip, instead sending a patient to another pharmacy 15 miles away. That option was shot down unanimously.

Religious pharmacists tried to overturn the rule in court and, even though they lost a federal decision on procedure, the state—still queued up to defend the rule in the federal district court in Tacoma—curiously decided, in a de facto settlement with the plaintiffs, Olympia's Stormans Inc.—to defer to the pharmacy board.

Dan Connolly, the lone naysayer of the group, wanted to go even further—not allowing any pharmacist to opt out of providing medications—but after 16 months of crafting these rules, the board decided it's been enough of a battle.
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