Washington state cannot force pharmacies to sell Plan B or other emergency contraceptives, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State law had required pharmacies to stock and dispense the drugs. But a pharmacy and two pharmacists sued, saying the rules infringed on their religious freedom.
U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton agreed, saying the policy suppresses the religious objections of pharmacists who believe the drugs lead to abortion.
"The most compelling evidence that the rules target religious conduct is the fact the rules contain numerous secular exemptions," Leighton said in his 48-page ruling.
"In sum, the rules exempt pharmacies and pharmacists from stocking and delivering lawfully prescribed drugs for an almost unlimited variety of secular reasons, but fail to provide exemptions for reasons of conscience," he added.
The right of conscience issue is a legal battle that's playing out in several states, including Illinois.
"These pharmacists are not trying to stop any physician from giving it out. They're not trying to stop any woman who wants to take the drug from taking the drug," Mark Rienzi, a lawyer representing the pharmacies, said.
"They're just saying, 'I in good conscience can't be a part of it. I can't sell that drug. Please go down the street and please don't put me out of business,'" he said.
Attorneys representing Washington state are expected to appeal the ruling.