Stormans v. Selecky, Washington

    • Your job or your conscience: a choice no American should have to make.

    • Margo, a pharmacists for 39 years, lost her job as a result of the regulations.

    • For 29 years, Rhonda provided compassionate care while living her convictions.

Your job or your conscience: a choice no American should have to make. Becket Fund fights for the constitutional right of pharmacists in Washington.  

The Becket Fund represents a family-owned pharmacy, Ralph’s Thriftway, and two pharmacists who could be forced out of the pharmacy profession solely because of their religious beliefs. These pharmacists cannot in good conscience dispense Plan B or ella, two types of emergency contraception, because they believe that life begins at the moment of fertilization, and that Plan B and ella can destroy a fertilized egg.

The controversy began in 2006 when the State Board of Pharmacy unanimously supported a rule protecting conscience for pharmacy workers. The Board voted in favor of a regulation allowing pharmacists with religious objections to refrain from dispensing Plan B or ella and to refer patients to nearby suppliers. Governor Christine Gregoire soon learned about the protection, publicly threatened to fire the Board’s members, and even called them late at night to lobby them. She replaced several Board members, publicly threatened to remove others, and personally joined in a boycott of the family-owned pharmacy. Matters escalated when the State’s Human Rights Commission insinuated that Board members could be held personally liable under gender discrimination laws if they supported the regulation.

Buckling under these pressures, the Board decided to reconsider the issue and instead adopted a regulation requiring pharmacies to stock and dispense the medication even when doing so violates their conscience. The Board adopted this regulation even though it admitted it found no evidence that anyone in the state had ever been unable to obtain Plan B or ella (or any other time-sensitive medication) due to religious objections.

The Becket Fund’s clients then filed suit to prevent the new regulation from forcing them out of their profession. They argued that forcing pharmacists to dispense Plan B or ella in violation of their religious beliefs violated their Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

On February 22, 2012, Judge Leighton, struck down the law requiring pharmacies to dispense the drug. The case is currently on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, at or call 202.349.7224.

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2-28-2012, Judge Leighton’s Plan B Ruling Makes Constitutional Sense, Bruce Ramsey, The Seattle Times

RADIO 2-25-2012, Religious Liberty in the Courts, State of Belief Radio

2-22-2012, Judge strikes down law mandating sale of contraception, Reuters, Stephanie Simon

2-22-2012, Gov. Gregoire may appeal Ralph’s Plan B victory, Brad Shannon, The Olympian

2-22-2012, WA court strikes down law targeting pro-life pharmacists, Anneke Green, Washington Times

2-22-2012, Washington State Can’t Make Pharmacies Sell Contraceptives, Don Jeffrey, Bloomberg

2-22-2012 Becket Fund victory: Federal judge upholds religious liberty in Washington state, Michelle Malkin

2-21-2012, Debate over conscience in the workplace intensifies, Stephanie Simon, Reuters

RADIO  2-22-2012, Senate to Vote on Contraception Mandate, The Take Away

2-5-2012, Protecting Rights of Conscience, Hannah Smith, Deseret News

2-3-2012, A bitter pill, Anneke E. Green, The Washington Times

1-25-2012, Seattle Showdown, Gerald Russello, National Catholic Register

1-4-2012, Pharmacists’ Conscience Rights on Trial – Violation of Free Exercise Rights, Ed Whelan, National Review Online

12-27-2011, Don’t Compel Health Providers To Violate Their Consciences, David K. DeWolf, The News Tribune – Tacoma

12-15-2011, Pharmacists’ Conscience Rights on Trial – The 2007 Regulations, Ed Whelan, National Review Online

12-12-2011, Atheocracy: Forcing Pharmacists to Sell Plan B, Timothy Carney, The Washington Examiner

12-9-2011, Pharmacists’ Conscience Rights on Trial – Introduction, Ed Whelan, National Review Online

11-30-11, Gov Gregorie vs. Religious Liberty, William P. Mumma, Wall Street Journal Online

11-28-2011, New chapter in ‘morning-after’ pill battle starts Monday, Brad Shannon, The Seattle Times

RADIO: 11-28-2011, State’s Plan B Dispensing Law Tested In Federal Court, Patricia Murphy, KUOW News

11-28-2011, Local pharmacy continues fighting sale of “morning-after pill”, Josh Kerns,

11-28-2011, Trial begins for pharmacists who refused to dispense morning after pill, Q 13 Fox News Online

5-31-2010, Conscience Claws, Gerald J. Russello, National Catholic Register

12-2009, Pulling the Plug on the Conscience Clause, Wesley J. Smith, First Things

1-8-2008, Pharmacists, Religious Liberty, and Conscience, Gerald J. Russello, National Catholic Register


Because of its religious beliefs, Ralph’s faced coordinated picketing and boycotts from pro-choice demonstrators; Governor Gregoire also joined the boycott.

Picketers lined both sides of the street at the entrance to Ralph’s, shouting at entering customers; Ralph’s was forced to hire a security guard to ensure customers’ safety.

Coordinated test shoppers were sent to Ralph’s Thriftway to demand emergency contraception. Once they were referred to one of the thirty pharmacies within five miles, they filed dozens of formal complaints with the State Board of Pharmacy.