As troubling as the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was their decision to not hear the appeal of Stormans Inc. v. Wiesman is even more troubling.
The first decision made it difficult for states to pass any law restricting abortion. The second decision leaves in place a rule created by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy that forces pharmacists to provide emergency contraceptives such as Plan B which many consider an abortifacient.
When the Washington State Board of Pharmacy considered allowing referrals on the basis of religious conscience, but they were threatened with removal by the Governor should they pass such a measure. Which is absolutely incredible.
The lawsuit was brought by the Stormans family, a Christian family who owns Ralph’s Thriftway, a grocery store and pharmacy in Olympia, WA. They did not carry emergency contraceptives. They did not want to provide the drugs like Plan B because they believed they are abortifacients (some debate this, but that is irrelevant). In the State of Washington if Ralph’s Thriftway didn’t carry, for instance, the generic version of a particular drug. They can provide a referral to another pharmacy. With Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, however, they have to offer it even though it was discovered that there were 30 locations within five minutes of Ralph’s Thriftway who provided Plan B.
Apparently having to travel to another store is now an “undue burden” for women seeking to put to end a potential pregnancy.
The court took time and bent over backwards for a figurative violation of a woman’s “right” to abortion in Texas, but could not take the time to hear a case with legitimate First Amendment concerns of a first-hand party that was being compelled to violate their religious conscience.
This is chilling and it does not bode well for the future of religious liberty as Justice Samuel Alito pointed out in his dissent.
This case is an ominous sign.
At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.
Yes we do. Take time to read all of Alito’s dissent.