US appeals court: Pharmacy responsibilities trump religious beliefs
- A group of pharmacists filed a case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, because they objected to delivering emergency contraceptives.
- Yesterday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that pharmacies have a responsibility to deliver emergency contraception to patients---regardless of any existing religious conflicts.
- In making this decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision that had determined that the rules were unconstitutional.
There have been a series of cases lately in which religious believers attempted to assert their rights to opt out of providing services that conflicted with their beliefs. Many of these cases were filed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations could seek exemptions from the Affordable Care Act provision requiring that employers provide coverage of contraception upon request.
However, this case is different, precisely becaue pharmacists have a professional responsibilty to deliver prescribed medications to patients. For example, even though Washington state allows a pharmacist to deny delivery of a medication, another pharmacist working there must be able to provide it. An important point made by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges was that time is of the essence when it comes to medications, such as emergency contraception, and therefore patient safety must come ahead of religious beliefs.