Illinois Court Grants Hearing for Pharmacists Refusing to Stock Plan B

Two Illinois pharmacists will be able to challenge in court an administrative rule that requires state pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception (EC) after the Illinois Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision denying their case last week. The case (see PDF), Morr-Fitz v. Blagojevich, will now be sent to a Circuit Court for review.

The rule in question, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich first issued as an executive order in 2005, is now a regulation that will continue to be enforced while the court reviews the case. The pharmacists challenging the regulation, which prohibits pharmacies from denying customers EC, cite religious opposition to emergency contraception as the reason behind their refusal to stock and distribute EC.

One of the pharmacists in the case, Luke Vander Bleek, told the Washington Post that “I cannot follow my religion’s teachings and continue to be involved” in distributing EC. Lorie Chaiten, director of the reproductive rights project at the ACLU of Illinois told the Chicago Tribune that “the court avoided the merits of the [pharmacists’] claim; all they did was say, procedurally, the case has to go back to the trial court for further consideration….We believe the lower court will conclude that the rule achieves the appropriate balance between two important and competing constitutional interests—the right to free exercise of religion and the right to access reproductive health care.”


Chicago Tribune 12/18/08; Illinois Supreme Court 12/18/08; Washington Post 12/18/08

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