by Steven Ertelt
August 3, 2007
Springfield, IL (LifeNews.com) — An Illinois pharmacist has won the first battle against Wal-Mart over whether he has to be forced to distribute the morning after pill, which can cause an abortion in limited circumstances. Beardstown pharmacist Ethan Vandersand rejected a request to fill a prescription for the drug last year.
That refusal led to disciplinary action from Wal-Mart and a civil rights lawsuit from Vandersand.
Vandersand was the only pharmacist on duty at the Wal-Mart store when a Planned Parenthood staff member seeking the Plan B drugs presented the script. The staffer eventually went to another pharmacy in town.
The lawsuit has gone before U.S. District Judge Jeanne Scott and she issued a statement this week saying that state pharmacists should have the right to refuse to dispense the Plan B drug on moral or religious grounds.
She also denied a request by Wal-Mart to dismiss the lawsuit. Scott also said she agreed with Vandersand that he is legally protected by the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act which protects the conscience rights of medical professionals.
“The statute prohibits discrimination against any person for refusing to provide health care because of his conscience," she wrote in opposition to Wal-Mart, which argued that the law doesn’t apply to pharmacists.
“Providing medication … constitutes health-care services. Any person, including Vandersand, who refuses to participate in any way in providing medication because of his conscience is protected by the Right of Conscience Act," Scott added.
However, the statement isn’t her final ruling in the case and it won’t affect an executive order from Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2005 that requires all pharmacists to fill any prescription for a legal, drug, including any drug that could cause an abortion.
Francis Manion, a pro-life attorney with the ACLJ who is representing Vandersand in the case, talked with the Springfield Journal-Register about the case.
He said the initial ruling “is a huge step forward in the ongoing struggle to ensure legal recognition of pharmacists’ right to practice their chosen profession without violating their moral and professional integrity.”
“Wal-Mart’s arguments, now soundly rejected by this court, may no longer be used by corporate or governmental officials to squeeze out of the profession pharmacists with a high regard for the sanctity of all human life,” Manion added.
But Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley told the newspaper that “The facts of the case haven’t even been heard yet" and said the initial ruling wasn’t a setback.
Pam Sutherland, president of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council complained about the ruling to the newspaper and Susan Hofer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said officials there would review the ruling.
Vandersand is asking for loss of pay and monetary damages in the case.