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Decision near on druggists' prescription choice

Religious groups and disgruntled pharmacists made a last ditch attempt Thursday to convince the state that druggists shouldn't have to fill prescriptions they find offensive.

"I urge you to look beyond the hysteria and do what is right," Anita Treis, a pharmacist from St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, told the state Board of Pharmacy.

The board is expected to make a final decision on the contentious issue today.

More than 250 people packed the Renton Community Center for Thursday's standing-room-only hearing. Some wore "Abortion is Homicide" T-shirts and there were many calls to let pharmacists have freedom of conscience.

But those who think pharmacies should have to dispense the Plan B "morning after" contraception pill and other lawful drugs also were out in force at the hearing.

"It's their choice to go into the field," said Doug Parker, who described himself as just a citizen. "They should prescribe what the doctor says, not what they think should be given out."

Parker suggested the next step is pharmacists refusing to dispense AIDS medication because they see it as a "gay disease."

The pharmacy board last year suggested pharmacists should be allowed to refuse to dispense drugs that conflict with their beliefs.

Backlash

That caused a backlash, particularly from Gov. Chris Gregoire. The governor declared it unacceptable and hauled pharmacists and state officials in for negotiations over the summer.

The pharmacy board eventually backed down and favored language that Gregoire supports.

The board adopted a proposed rule that would not allow pharmacies to refuse to dispense prescriptions on moral grounds. Individual pharmacists could decline, but only if there were in the same shop another druggist who could provide the prescription with no hassle or delay to the customer.

It's been a sensation. The pharmacy board has received 21,733 letters, e-mails and other comments on the proposed rule. Nearly 12,000 supported the pharmacist's right to choose.

But the board also received more than 14,000 petition signatures, with the majority saying druggists should be required to dispense prescriptions that are lawfully made by physicians.

Pharmacy board members gave no clues Thursday of whether they will stick to their proposal to make pharmacies dispense.

"I think we have a good chance that the rule will be adopted," Blythe Chandler, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, said after the hearing. "But I wouldn't take it for granted."

Women in Olympia and Lacey have complained about pharmacies refusing to dispense Plan B. Meeting today

The state Board of Pharmacy is meeting to discuss and possibly act on a proposed rule that would not allow pharmacies to refuse to dispense prescriptions on moral grounds. The meeting is at noon today at Renton Community Center, 1715 Maple Valley Highway. No public testimony will be taken.

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