Here's a press release from the office of the governor:

"Responding to recent complaints filed against a licensed pharmacy that refused to dispense prescription[s], [the] governor today filed an emergency rule that clarifies: pharmacies... must sell and fill prescriptions without delay."

What prompted the governor to get serious about women's rights? The dramatic press release continues:

"Five weeks ago, two women called in prescriptions to their local pharmacy. And yet both were denied... because the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription. Unfortunately, this story is not unique. Cases like this have been popping up all over the country. Now I don't believe this is a coincidence. I have a sneaking suspicion that in all likelihood, this is part of a concerted effort to deny women access to birth control.

"Our regulation says that if a woman goes to a pharmacy with a prescription for birth control, the pharmacy is not allowed to discriminate who they sell it to and who they don't. No delays. No hassles. No lecture. Just fill the prescription," the governor explained.

Too bad this press release came from the desk of Illinois's Democratic governor, Rod Blagojevich, and not the desk of Washington State's Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire.

Blagojevich is right. Refusals are happening all over the country. Last week, I broke the news that a local women's health clinic, the Cedar River Clinics, filed a complaint with the state Department of Health about several pharmacies—including the pharmacy at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center—refusing to fill prescriptions for abortion- and birth-control-related meds. ["Bitter Pill," April 13.]

The complaint was timely, because currently—as in this week—the Washington State Board of Pharmacy is holding statewide public hearings to consider new rules that may allow pharmacists to cite "conscientious, moral, or religious reasons" for refusing to fill legal prescriptions like Plan B or even regular old birth control. (The closest hearing to Seattle took place on Wednesday, April 19, south of Olympia in Thurston County.)

In Illinois, eye-opening complaints about refusals hot-wired the governor into action. I wish that were the case in Washington. In a sign that advocates are disappointed with Gregoire's reticence, an ad hoc group of statewide health and women's advocacy groups presented a petition to the governor at this week's pharmacy board hearings calling on her to make some noise.

Indeed, women's rights advocates are concerned that the seven-member pharmacy board is leaning toward allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions. Governor Gregoire—who can hire and fire board members—is the last hope. Unfortunately, unlike Illinois Governor Blagojevich and his emergency order, Gregoire isn't using her bully pulpit to either make the case for women's rights or to generate public pressure on the board.

Gregoire did send a perfunctory letter to the board last January, saying, "it is inappropriate for pharmacies or pharmacists to interfere with this established patient-doctor relationship by granting or denying prescriptions based on their personal objections." But she has since remained silent. That needs to change.