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Washington State Pharmacy Board Reverses Course, Leaves Rule in Place E-mail
Written by Don Byrd   
Friday, 17 December 2010

The State Pharmacy Board in Washington will leave standing a rule requiring pharmacists to dispense Plan B emergency contraception, despite any religious objections. After four years of legal wrangling over the measure, the Board had begun a process to change that provision, allowing pharmacists to refer patients to other providers, but in an unexpected 5-1 vote yesterday, left the rule in place as is.

"They looked at the rule and said, 'We think it's worked fine,' " said Tim Church, a spokesman for the state Department of Health.

Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement Thursday night calling it a "good decision."

"I could not support a ruling that would limit a patient's access to medication," she said. "The board understood that changing the current rule could force patients, especially those living in rural areas, to suffer lengthy delays to receive their medication and cause others to go without entirely."

Having followed this story for a couple years, this sure is a surprise. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer points out, "The board had held two packed public hearings, received more than 5,000 comments, and voted last month to begin drafting new language." So, what happened?

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