Publication Date



In 2015, the Ninth Circuit held in Stormans, Inc. v.
Wiesmani that the Christian owners of a pharmacy in
Washington who objected to carrying and distributing
emergency contraception because it conflicted with their
religious beliefs must distribute those drugs under the
state's pharmacy regulations. Washington's
Pharmacist Responsibility Rule and Delivery Rule
require pharmacy owners to carry and distribute
emergency contraception but do not allow any
exemptions for owners or pharmacists who object to
doing so for conscience reasons. At the same time,
Washington's Death with Dignity Act makes physician-
assisted suicide legal in the state and contains a broad
exemption for any person in the healthcare field who
does not wish to participatefor any reason, including
for conscience reasons. This Note compares these
different laws and seeks to explain why one contains a
broad conscience exemption for those who do not wish
to participate in physician-assisted suicide while the
other contains no exemption at all for pharmacy owners
who object to carrying and distributing emergency
contraceptionfor conscience reasons. After discussing a

brief history of the Supreme Court's Free Exercise
jurisprudence and conscience exemptions in the United
States, this Note explains the background of the
Washington Death with Dignity Act, which began as a
voter initiative, and the Pharmacist Responsibility
Rule and Delivery Rule, which were regulations
enacted by the Washington Board of Pharmacy. Next,
this Note explains that the different issues of physician-
assisted suicide and emergency contraception are
comparable because they both involve socially accepted
medical practices in Washington, the same
participatingparties, and a similar harm in regards to
conscience and consequence. It then looks to possible
reasons for the distinction in Washington's laws and
ultimately concludes that the difference in the state's
conscience exemptions is due to the targeted political
influence of interest groups and Washington's Governor
to amend the state's pharmacy regulations to bar any
exemptions from carrying or distributing emergency
contraceptionfor conscience reasons. Finally, this Note
argues that in the wake of the Stormans decision,
inclusion of conscience exemptions is necessary to
protect the rights of pharmacists and pharmacy owners
in the future.