Religion in Society
Religion in Society

Judge Says Pharmacists Can Refuse to Give Morning-After Pill

| by Illinois Family Institute
By Ralph Rivera, IFI Lobbyist | Illinois Family Institute

An Illinois Judge ruled last week that the State cannot force two pharmacists with religious objections to abortion to dispense Plan B also known as the "morning after pill".

Circuit court Judge John Belz in Springfield issued a temporary restraining order to remain in effect until he can hear arguments regarding the legality of the state's administrative rule that requires pharmacies to dispense all "lawful prescription[s] for a contraceptive... without delay" against the owners/pharmacists religious beliefs and consciences. Pharmacy owners Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, who have several northern Illinois pharmacies, have been fighting for their rights on this issue since 2005.

At heart of the legal battle is the question of whether the Emergency Contraceptives Rule, which took effect on August 25, 2005 under the executive order of then-Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, violates the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Right of Conscience Act.

The governor at that time stated publicly that "pharmacists with moral objections should find another profession," and "must fill prescriptions without making moral judgments."

Last December, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the pro-life pharmacists could proceed with their lawsuit seeking to overturn the executive order by Blagojevich, after a divided appellate court affirmed a circuit court [Judge Belz] decision to dismiss the complaint. The Supreme Court noted that "Plaintiffs [VanderBleek and Kosirog] have alleged that defendants are on record via the Governor's public statements, warning that the entire point of the rule is to coerce pharmacists with religious objections into dispensing Plan B contraceptives."

In October 2007, a settlement was reached with the State and certain pharmacists and Walgreen Co. that stated pharmacists would not have to fill a prescription they opposed on moral grounds, but the pharmacy would have to make arrangements to have the prescription filled by some other pharmacist.

This requirement that the pharmacy would still have to see that the prescription order was filled did not protect the pharmacy owner who had a moral opposition to the prescription. Both VanderBleek and Kosirog, who are also pharmacists, then pursued further legal action to protect their rights of conscience.

Pro-lifers objection to Plan B, pharmaceutically known as Levonorgestrel, is based on the fact that Plan B acts in two ways, one of which is to prevent implantation of a new human life after conception. The manufacturer of Plan B is Barr Laboratories and its own information sheet on Plan B states "it may inhibit implantation(by altering the endometrium)." Thus, it has the effect of a chemical abortion.