Published Online: Saturday, September 1, 2007
Several pharmacists in Washington state have filed suit to block new regulations that require the sale of emergency contraception. They contend that the mandate violates their moral and religious beliefs.

The pharmacists? lawsuit has the backing of the state?s Roman Catholic bishops, who claim that government regulators are wrongly forcing pharmacists to administer medical treatments they consider immoral. At the heart of the controversy is levonorgestrel, the so-called ?morning-after pill? (known as Plan B). This drug is an emergency contraceptive that can lower the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89% if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

The Washington state rule under fire enables pharmacists with personal objections to a drug to get a coworker to fill the prescription. The regulation also states, however, that the patient must be able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit. Additionally, the rule requires pharmacies in Washington to order new supplies of a drug if a patient asks for one that is not in stock, and it prohibits pharmacists from harassing patients seeking emergency contraception.

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