The Supreme Court is allowing Washington state to require pharmacies to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, rejecting an appeal from pharmacists who said they have religious objections to providing the drugs.
The justices' order on Tuesday leaves in place rules first adopted in 2007 following reports that some women had been denied access to emergency contraceptives that are effective when taken within a few days of unprotected sex. Pharmacies must fill lawful prescriptions, but individual pharmacists with moral objections can refer patients to another pharmacist at the same store.
A Ralph's Thriftway pharmacy in Olympia, Washington, and two pharmacists sued, saying the rules required them to violate their religious beliefs.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the appeal.
Calling the court's action an "ominous sign," Alito wrote a stinging 15-page dissent for the three dissenting justices. "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," he wrote.
A trial judge twice ruled for the pharmacists in the long-running lawsuit, but was twice overturned by the federal appeals court in San Francisco.
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