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For More Information:
Amie Newman
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Amie Newman, Communications Manager
Aradia Women's Health Center

Washington Alliance for Reproductive Choice (WARC) expresses cautious optimism at the decision of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy to reconsider pharmacist refusal rule.

Seattle, WA, July 20, 2006— The Washington Alliance for Reproductive Choice (WARC) today expressed cautious optimism at the decision of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy (WSBOP) to reconsider a proposed rule that would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill safe, valid and legal prescriptions.

“WARC’s position is that if the Board allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions, any personal pharmacist refusals should be invisible to the health care consumer,” said newly elected WARC Chair and Executive Director of Aurora Medical Services, Alison Duren-Sutherland. “ The customer certainly should not have to go to another pharmacy, nor should they have to hear about an individual pharmacist's personal objection to their medication. Though we don’t yet know what new language the board will consider, today’s decision again opens up the possibility of a rule being adopted that meets the needs of Washington’s health care consumers.”
Based upon their decision today, the WSBOP will convene in August to once again re-develop language for the Pharmacist’s Responsibility ruling. Patient rights and women’s health advocates, including the 71 organizations that signed onto a letter in May urging the Board of Pharmacy to adopt a rule protecting patient access to medications will be looking to the Board to consider the public’s recent response to any possible barriers to accessing medication from a pharmacist.

“In Olympia, we’ve seen private citizens engaging in a boycott of a local pharmacy that refuses to provide Plan B, or emergency contraception,” said Linda Tosti-Lane, Legislative Coordinator and immediate past President of the Washington chapter of the National Organization for Women. “Clearly the people of Washington care deeply about their access to this medication, and the Board of Pharmacy would do well to remember their responsibility to the citizens of this state.”

In recent weeks, Governor Gregoire has also expressed concern with a “refuse and refer” policy, instead encouraging the Board to require pharmacies to ensure patients receive non-judgmental and timely access to their medications.

“The American Pharmacists Association Code of Ethics is very clear in stating that ‘[a] pharmacist respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient,’” said Beverly Whipple, Executive Director of Cedar River Clinics. “We know that most pharmacists take this very seriously, and we hope that the Pharmacy Board will fulfill their responsibility to protect patient autonomy with a new draft of this ruling.”

Following months of citizen input, including thousands of letters and emails sent to the Washington State Board of Pharmacy and public hearings in Tumwater and Yakima, it is clear that Washington state residents did not support the original rule that would have allowed pharmacists to send patients away without their medications.

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The Washington Alliance for Reproductive Choice (WARC) is a coalition of organizations that advocate for reproductive rights and provide reproductive health care around Washington State.