Bellingham woman joins state in ‘Morning After’ suit

Published on Thu, Aug 16, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Bellingham woman joins state in ‘Morning After’ suit

By Tara Nelson

A Western Washington University student is one of several individuals to join the state of Washington in a lawsuit to defend new rules requiring pharmacies to fill valid prescriptions and provide medications without discrimination or delay.

Rhiannon Andreini, a WWU student, said she was refused access to emergency contraception by a pharmacy in Mukilteo when she sought to obtain emergency contraception after a condom tore during intercourse.

“I might need and choose to use emergency contraception in the future. I would like to participate in this litigation to help ensure that I, and all women in Washington, can get timely access to emergency contraception to prevent an unintended pregnancy without harassment or hostility,” she said.

Andreini is joined by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, the Northwest Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington and the law firm Heller Ehrman, as well as several Washington State physicians and patients. The case is scheduled to preside in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The move comes after a July 26 decision by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy that requires pharmacies to dispense medications regardless of pharmacists’ personal feelings about a particular medicine.
Pharmacists may ask another pharmacist on duty to provide the medicine, but in all cases the pharmacy must fill the prescription in a timely manner.

Two days after the ruling, two individual pharmacists and the pharmacy owner of Stormans Inc. sued the State of Washington, challenging the new rules on constitutional grounds. The plaintiffs want pharmacies to be allowed to refuse to fill customers’ requests for valid prescriptions that conflict with personal beliefs.

Opponents such as Andreini, however, argue that the issue is a public health matter that involves the rights of patients to promptly obtain the medications their doctors prescribe. In many parts of the state, when a pharmacy refuses to fill a prescription, the next-nearest pharmacy is many miles away.

“Denying medication to any patient creates an unacceptable barrier to health care. It should not be tolerated,” said Lisa Stone, Executive Director of the Northwest Women’s Law Center.

The Washington State Pharmacy Association, which represents the pharmacy profession, participated in the rulemaking and supports the new rule.

More than 70 organizations, including Senior Services of Seattle/King County the American Academy of Pediatrics - Washington Chapter, Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and Lifelong AIDS Alliance, also support the rules.