KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Wash. Law Requiring Pharmacies Stock Emergency Contraception Struck Down

A federal judged ruled Wednesday that Washington can't require pharmacists to carry and give patients emergency contraception. Other cases included whether a lesbian couple can share health benefits, and a challenge to a Mass. law on abortion buffer zones.

Reuters: Judge Strikes Down Law Mandating Sale Of Contraception
A federal judge declared on Wednesday that a Washington state rule requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives against their religious beliefs is unconstitutional. In a decision with national implications for the role of personal morality in the workplace, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton also imposed an injunction blocking enforcement of the regulation (Luck, 2/23).

The Hill: Federal Judge Strikes Down Washington State’s Morning-After Pill Mandate
The regulations were adopted in 2007 by the State Board of Pharmacy under pressure from Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat who opposed the board's earlier unanimous support for conscience protections. ... Leighton added that while the regulation does not apply to individual pharmacists, it impacts them by making them harder to employ since pharmacies must have at least one person on shift at all times who is willing to dispense the morning-after pills( Pecquet, 2/22).

The Associated Press: Judge: Wash. Can't Make Pharmacies Sell Plan B
The state requires pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community need and to stock a representative assortment of drugs needed by their patients. ... Leighton said Wednesday that the state allows all sorts of business exemptions to that rule. Pharmacies can decline to stock a drug, such as certain painkillers, if it's likely to increase the risk of theft, or if it requires an inordinate amount of paperwork, or if the drug is temporarily unavailable from suppliers, among other reasons (Johnson, 2/22).

Also from the courts -

Boston Globe: Federal Judge Rejects Challenge To State's Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Law
U.S. District Judge Joseph L. Tauro rejected claims that the law violated abortion protesters' free speech rights, saying in a ruling issued yesterday that the law "as applied is a valid regulation of the time, place, and manner of Plaintiffs' speech." ... The law creates a 35-foot fixed buffer zone around the driveways and entrances of clinics (Finucane, 2/22).

The Associated Press: Lesbian Federal Worker Wins Health Benefits Case
[San Francisco--] The government cannot deny health benefits to the wife of a lesbian court employee by relying on the 1996 law that bars government recognition of same-sex unions, a federal judge has ruled. In Wednesday's ruling, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White said the government's refusal to furnish health insurance to Karen Golinski's wife is unjustified because the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples (Leff, 2/22).

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