FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 5, 2016
CONTACT: Kristen Day (202) 220-3066
Democrats For Life of America (DFLA) is proud to join the legal battle against religious discrimination and in favor of conscience, filing an amicus brief this week in an important U.S. Supreme Court case. DFLA’s brief supports the request of pro-life pharmacists in Washington state that the U.S. Supreme Court protect their right to decline to dispense emergency contraceptives that they reasonably believe may cause the abortion of new embryos.
The state of Washington passed regulations that allowed pharmacies to decline to stock or dispense these and other drugs for business or convenience reasons, but not for reasons of moral or religious conscience. The state singled out conscience-based reasons even though pharmacies were more than 10 times more likely to have business or convenience reasons for not stocking the drugs.
“In addition, as DFLA emphasized, the evidence indicated that there was no issue of access for those who wanted these medicines, and the state itself stipulated that ‘facilitated referrals [to other pharmacies] pose no threat to timely access,’” said Kristen Day, the executive director of DFLA. “Yet the Court of Appeals disregarded the fact and allowed the state to punish pharmacies solely because their reason for referring customers elsewhere would be a matter of religious conscience. This kind of discrimination is repugnant and unconstitutional.”
In Stormans v. Wiesman, the Stormans family, owners of the Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia, and two individual pharmacists employed elsewhere in Washington state are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and the justices to uphold their right not to be forced into giving out abortion-inducing drugs. The case has dragged on for nine years, ever since the state of Washington first imposed a Planned Parenthood-approved rule against the family and pharmacists.
The state rule forces pharmacies to give out so-called “morning after” contraception (Plan B) and “five-day after” pills (ella), despite the fact that FDA labeling indicates that these drugs may have the effect of preventing a newly fertilized embryo from implanting in the womb. Giving out the drugs is a violation of the conscience of the Stormans family and the pharmacists because they, like millions of other Americans, believe that a distinct human life begins at the moment of fertilization.
Thomas C. Berg, the James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, wrote the brief on behalf of the Democrats For Life of America, the Christian Legal Society, and other groups. In his brief, Berg notes that the state rule flies in the face of America’s tradition of respect for religious freedom, especially in cases involving the taking of human life. Our laws protect religious objectors from forced participation in war, in capital punishment, in assisted suicide, and in abortion.
“Forcing the petitioners to stock and dispense these drugs, over their religiously grounded conscientious objection, would impose a severe burden entirely out of step with this nation’s tradition of protecting those who, in good conscience, believe they would be wrongly taking a life,” Berg writes.
Despite the fact that a federal court found the state of Washington’s contraception rule unconstitutional in 2012 after a 12-day trial, the state took the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year, and those judges ruled against the pharmacists. The Ninth Circuit opinion refused to follow Supreme Court precedent and the decisions of other courts prohibiting the state from singling out religious conscience for prohibition.
The Stormans family and the pharmacists believe that these drugs take a human life, and they have a right to their beliefs.
“Our nation—as any nation committed to civil liberty would—protects those who believe that their action would immorally contribute to the taking of a human life,” Berg writes in the brief.
Threats to religious liberty and freedom of conscience are threats to all of our rights. DFLA calls on all Democrats – and all Americans – to stand for freedom of conscience and against religious discrimination.
To read the brief click here.
More information about the Democrats For Life of America can be found at www.democratsforlife.org.
Kristen Day 202-220-3066
Executive Director, Democrats For Life of America
601 Pennsyvlania Avenue, NW