SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A divided 9th Circuit rejected a bid by Washington state officials and several women to overturn a ruling that allows state pharmacists to refuse to sell morning-after emergency contraceptive pills, or “Plan B,” on religious grounds.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton enjoined enforcement of an administrative code prohibiting pharmacists from refusing to sell the pills, also known as “Plan B.” Leighton said the code would unconstitutionally interfere with pharmacists’ rights to freely exercise their religion.
After weighing plaintiffs’ request to stay the injunction, the appellate court ruled that the factors do not tip in their favor. “Even assuming the district court erred in concluding that the Washington regulations violate the Free Exercise Clause, there is insufficient evidence that appellants-intervenors will face irreparable harm if the injunction remains in effect pending appeal,” the 2-1 majority wrote.
The majority noted that all plaintiffs, even those turned away by pharmacists, have been able to obtain Plan B elsewhere.
Judge Tashima dissented in part, saying the appellants “have demonstrated a strong likelihood success on the merits, at least the possibility of irreparable harm,” and “public interest weighs in their favor.”