Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt quietly signed Nevada on to support pharmacists in Washington State who said they did not want to stock or dispense emergency contraception because it violated their religious beliefs.
In February 2016, Laxalt added Nevada to an amicus brief with 12 other states in support of two Olympia, Washington pharmacists who consider the so-called “morning after pill” a form of abortion. They were challenging a 2007 regulation that specified pharmacists must dispense all FDA-approved drugs to patients regardless of moral or religious objections.
“This Court has long recognized the sincere and constitutionally protected objections many individuals have over the termination of pregnancy,” the states’ brief said. “These issues have ‘profound moral and spiritual implications,’ and thus ‘[m]en and women of good conscience can disagree, and we suppose some always shall disagree.’”
A federal District Court judge ruled in 2012 that the regulation violated the religious freedom of pharmacy owners, but a three-judge panel of federal appeals court judges overturned the ruling in 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning the 2007 regulation stands.
Nevada does not have a similar law mandating pharmacists fill all valid prescriptions, nor does it have a carve-out allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill a prescription on religious grounds. The Board of Pharmacy does have regulations that specify a pharmacist can refuse to fill a prescription if they believe the patient will suffer immediate and serious health consequences if they dispense the medication.
Laxalt did not issue a press release announcing his involvement in the Washington case, and it has not been previously reported. Laxalt’s campaign did not answer an inquiry Monday about whether he would propose or support a law enshrining conscience protections in Nevada if elected governor.
Emergency contraception such as Plan B contains a high dose of a hormone used in regular birth control pills and prevents the release of an egg from the ovary. It’s taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex or a birth control failure and is generally not lumped in as an abortion pill because it does not stop the development of a fetus once a fertilized egg has implanted in the uterus.
The abortion pill or RU-486, by contrast, can end an actual pregnancy up to about two months of gestation.
Laxalt, who describes himself as pro-life, has previously supported regulations that aim to protect health workers who don’t want to render certain medical services because of their religious or moral objections. Critics say such policies lead to religion-based discrimination.
He has also signed on to multiple abortion-related amicus briefs during his time as attorney general without announcing it.