Washington "Plan B" debate is back in court - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Washington "Plan B" debate is back in court

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SEATTLE, Wash. -- A four-year legal fight over who must provide  the "morning-after" pill resumed in a Seattle courtroom.  Plan B say is a high dose of the ingredients of a birth-control pill that greatly reduces the chance of pregnancy if ingested by a woman within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The Food and Drug Administration in 2009 ordered that it be available over the counter for teens as young as 17, but with prescriptions for those who are younger.

FDA also says the medication does not affect existing pregnancies, unlike the RU-486 drug, but it has said the medication might act to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

The court battle is on the grounds of whether the Washington state Pharmacy Board can legally require pharmacies to dispense any medication for which there is a community demand.

Washington Pharmacy Board has had a rule since 1967 requiring pharmacies to stock and provide medications that are in demand in their communities.  In 2007, the law was changed to let pharmacists not carry it if others in the area can provide the pill.

Staffers for Attorney General Rob McKenna,are defending the Department of Health, agency Secretary Mary Selecky, and the state law, which applies to all medications including those to treat AIDs or any other condition that might draw moral objections.

"The state will argue the rules are neutral, generally applicable and rationally relating to the legitimate interest of the state in promoting timely delivery of lawful medication. The plain language of the rules applies to all time sensitive medications," said Janelle Guthrie, a spokeswoman for McKenna, a Republican.

The federal courts have taken differing positions on some of the legal issues at hand. A federal judge in Tacoma, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton, initially issued an injunction blocking the state's rules and their enforcement against Stormans Inc., but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed that ruling in 2009.

Kevin Stormans has been undeterred and at one point explained that his firm was not stocking the medications, despite state law, based on his belief that Plan B can act as an abortion agent.

As outlined by Becket's news release, "The Plaintiffs … have religious objections to dispensing Plan B. Their religious beliefs forbid them from dispensing these drugs because they can operate by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, thus destroying a human embryo."

The case is describes  as landmark, and it is likely to work its way up the appellate courts before the disagreement is settled legally.