A Sangamon County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday struck down a 6-year-old state rule that required Illinois pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception [which works as an abortifacient; there's a reason it's called "Plan B": plan A didn't work].
Judge John Belz ruled in favor of two pharmacy owners — Luke Vander Bleek of Morrison and Glenn Kosirog of Wheaton — who didn’t want to dispense or stock “morning-after” pills or help patients obtain them elsewhere.
“We’re thrilled,” Mark Rienzi, a Catholic University law professor and one of the pharmacy owners’ lawyers, said after the ruling. “The law of Illinois and the law of the United States make it clear that people can enter the health-care profession without having to check their conscience or religion at the door.”
Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “We’re disappointed with the ruling [that isn't surprising]. There is a compelling need for emergency contraceptives to be available at all licensed pharmacies in Illinois.”
The pharmacy owners, both of whom are pharmacists, oppose emergency contraception on religious grounds.
Even though lawyers for the state argued otherwise, Belz ruled that pharmacies and pharmacists are protected by the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act, as well as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, when they refuse to perform services on moral grounds.
The rule first was put in place by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich after state officials received complaints that pharmacists were refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception, commonly sold under the brand name “Plan B.”
Belz wrote in his ruling that the state Right of Conscience Act “was designed to forbid the government from doing what it aims to do here: coercing individuals or entities to provide healthcare services that violate their beliefs.”
Vander Bleek and Kosirog believe emergency contraception can cause what they view [nevermind the reality] to be an abortion when the medicine prevents a fertilized egg [an embryo] from implanting in a woman’s uterus [which would be one of an abortion].
Emergency contraception can be used to prevent pregnancy up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, though it is more effective the sooner it is taken. The medicine most often works by delaying the release of an unfertilized egg into a woman’s fallopian tube.
The medicine is different from the “abortion pill,” which causes a fertilized egg to dislodge from the uterus [but not by much].
The Illinois attorney general’s office plans to appeal Belz’s ruling, which the judge hasn’t yet extended to apply to all pharmacies in the state.
Vander Bleek, 47, a Catholic, owns pharmacies in Morrison, Sycamore and Genoa. Kosirog, 51, who identified himself as a Christian [Catholics are the first Christians] and believes that life begins at conception, owns a Chicago pharmacy.
Belz wrote that that state provided “no evidence of a single person who ever was unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection. … Nor did the government provide any evidence that anyone was having difficulties finding willing sellers of over-the-counter Plan B, either at pharmacies or over the Internet.”
Belz added that the state conceded that any health impact from the pro-life pharmacy owners’ religious objections “would be minimal.”
06 April 2011
Good news for pharmacists
The State Journal-Register reports good news this morning for Illinois pharmacists (with my emphases and comments):