Pharmacists are not required to distribute Plan B “morning after” pill

CHICAGO, Dec. 18 Christian Newswire—This morning, the Illinois Supreme Court handed the governor another setback in the case of Morr-Fitz v. Blagojevich, et al. The court held that pharmacists may now defend their right of conscience against the state’s “Emergency Rule” which forces pharmacies to stock and disperse Plan B contraception (known as the “morning after” pill) under threat of sanction or even loss of license. Today’s decision is a reversal of the lower courts’ ruling against the pharmacists on the grounds that the case was not ripe for adjudication.

The “Emergency Rule” was issued by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2005, requiring pharmacies to dispense the Plan B contraceptive without delay and without regard to the religious beliefs or conscience of the dispensing pharmacist. The Governor stated publicly that “pharmacists with moral objections should find another profession,” and “must fill prescriptions without making moral judgments.” The Governor’s rule was eventually adopted as an Administrative Rule, and within weeks of its final enactment, the Department of Financial & Professional Regulation began prosecuting pharmacies and/or pharmacists alleged to have violated the Rule.

In response, pharmacists Luke Vander Bleek and Glen Kosirog challenged the Rule in court, garnering the support of many groups along the way, including the Illinois and American Pharmacists Associations. The pharmacists claimed, in a nine-count complaint, that the governor’s dictate and the administrative rule that followed were violations of their statutorily and constitutionally protected rights to conscience and free exercise of religion.

Richard Baker, of the Chicago law firm of Mauck & Baker, LLC, filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of both the Illinois and American Pharmacists’ Associations.

“No pharmacist should ever be forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood,” said Baker. “This decision is good news in light of the many new legislative initiatives, to override the conscience of those, like Luke Vander Bleek and Glen Kosirog, who seek to follow the dictates of conscience in practicing their profession. We would all do well to pay more attention to our consciences—the governor included. I am pleased with the result and hope that the circuit court, on remand, will vindicate the fundamental right of pharmacists in Illinois to follow their conscience in their vocation.”