Can a Christian pharmacy be forced to sell abortion drugs? U.S. Supreme Court set to decide on whether to hear case

An anti-abortion protester holds a placard in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C.Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court in expected to decide Friday whether to hear a potentially groundbreaking case brought against a Christian family who own a pharmacy over their refusal to stock and sell any form of abortion-inducing drugs because of their religious beliefs.

The Stormans family, who own Ralph's Thriftway, a small family-run grocery store and pharmacy, petitioned the High Court sometime in January to review their case after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a district court decision, holding that the Delivery Rule is a neutral and generally applicable law and is therefore subject to rational basis review, CBN News reports.

The Stormans argue that the legal issue involved should be governed by the Supreme Court's ruling in a 1993 case where it held that states may not pass laws prohibiting people from engaging (or refusing to engage, as in this case) in conduct for religious reasons while permitting people to engage in the same conduct for non-religious reasons.

"If the 9th Circuit decision stands, it will be the first time in America's history that we have forced healthcare providers to participate in taking human life...[and] that is groundbreaking,'' said Kristen Waggonner, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney and the Stormans' lead counsel.

The controversy began in 2005 when Planned Parenthood reportedly launched a national campaign aimed at forcing pharmacies to carry controversial morning after pills. The new law passed in Washington state suddenly cast the Stormans family pharmacy in the crosshairs of Planned Parenthood's political agenda, according to CBN News.

The executive director of Planned Parenthood's Washington office reportedly "met privately, one-on-one with the governor (Christine Gregoire), enlisted her help, and from there they sought to execute the campaign to force the Board of Pharmacy to adopt a rule targeting people of faith.''

Pro-abortion activists then sent test shoppers into the Stormans' pharmacy to ask for Plan B. They then filed complaints against the pharmacy because it didn't sell one.

This reportedly led to an investigation and the Stormans were threatened with losing their pharmacy licence. Subsequently the owners filed a suit against the State of Washington, arguing that the Delivery Rule violates the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause, among other claims.

Rod Shafer, former CEO of Washington State Pharmacy Association, said, "We were very concerned when Planned Parenthood and the governor started this initiative to essentially remove a part of practice that has been in place for hundreds of years."

In their statement, the Stormans said: "The government shouldn't be in a position where they are allowed to make a law that forces us to choose between our family business and our faith."