Pharmacists in Washington Statewill have the right to refuse to dispenseemergency contraceptivesbut will be obliged to refer disappointedpatients to other sources,under new regulations issued bythe pharmacy board in Olympia.
The "refuse and refer" rule,which was unanimously approvedby the board, would allowWashington pharmacists to declineto sell products such as the so-calledmorning-after birth controlpill if they are personally opposedto the use of these drugs. At thesame time, however, the regulationsprohibit pharmacists fromobstructing a patient in obtaining "alawfully prescribed drug or device." The rule requires them to offerpatients "timely alternatives" if theyrefuse to fill a prescription.
Although the rule drew strongsupport from pharmacy groups inthe state, it has attracted criticismfrom abortion groups as well asfrom Washington Democratic GovChristine Gregoire, who has characterizedthe "refuse and refer" rule as an approach that discriminatesagainst women.