On Tuesday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit against a Washington state law requiring pharmacists to dispense chemical abortifacients against their religious beliefs. Their decision to reject the case leaves in place a lower-court ruling that the law doesn’t violate First Amendment rights.
In response, Justice Samuel Alito issued a scathing dissenting opinion, saying those who care about religious freedom should be greatly concerned by the court’s decision to reject the case.
“This case is an ominous sign,” Alito wrote. “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. . . 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.”
The law, which has been on the books since 2007, seems to be a pointed attack on the religious beliefs of the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway, who are devout Christians and believe chemical abortifacients like Plan B are morally and biologically similar to an abortion.
Pharmacies frequently do not carry or will run out of a specific medication and refer customers to alternate stores. Thus the Ralph’s Thriftway owners’ decision not to stock Plan B did not create an unusual situation that prevented people’s ability to purchase abortifacient drugs, Alito noted.
“The evidence relied upon by the District Court suggests that the regulations are targeted at religious conduct alone, to stamp out religiously motivated referrals while allowing referrals for secular reasons (whether by rule or by wink),” he wrote. “I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights. I respectfully dissent.”