Illinois Supreme Court Allows Morning After Pill Conscience Case to Proceed

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 2, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Illinois Supreme Court Allows Morning After Pill Conscience Case to Proceed

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
January 2
, 2009

Springfield, IL (LifeNews.com) — The Illinois Supreme Court last month gave pro-life pharmacists a victory when it determined that they can proceed with their lawsuit seeking to overturn a mandate Gov. Rod Blagojevich put in place. The governor’s order makes them fill all prescriptions, including those for the morning after pill.

The pharmacists objected to being forced to fill orders for the drug on both moral and religious grounds and because the Plan B drug can sometimes cause an abortion.

The state’s high court said the religious objections of pro-life health professionals must be considered by the Illinois courts and sent the case back to the trial court.

“This is a major victory for pro-life health care professionals who have been in legal limbo for years,” Francis Manion, a senior attorney for the ACLJ, told LifeNews.com.

His group serves as co-counsel for two pro-life pharmacy owners in Illinois who are part of the case.

“We’re delighted that the state’s high court rejected Governor Blagojevich’s refusal to recognize the religious objections of our clients. No American should be forced to make a choice between their conscience and their livelihood," Manion added.

"We look forward to presenting our case in the Illinois court system and remain confident that Governor Blagojevich’s illegal executive order trampling the constitutional rights of pro-life pharmacists ultimately will be rejected," he told LifeNews.com.

In the opinion, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that “ . . . they [Gov. Blagojevich and other state defendants] have publicly stated that they will vigorously prosecute pharmacists with religious objections to drive them out of the profession and that a pharmacy must fill Plan B prescriptions without making moral judgments if it wants to stay in business.”

Manion said it is clear that Blagojevich is determined to force out of their profession pharmacists whose moral codes differ from his.

"We believe the Governor’s order is in direct conflict with both state and federal laws protecting the conscience rights of health care workers. And with today’s ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court has vindicated the right of our clients to have their claims heard in the Illinois courts," he said.

The Illinois high court also concluded that the governor’s order has a direct and real impact on pro-life health care professionals.

The court stated: “In its current form [the regulation] has an even greater concrete and coercive impact on plaintiffs. The rule now expressly requires that plaintiffs must stock and dispense Plan B contraception. Under the current version, the simple failure by plaintiffs to make efforts to stock the contraceptive in question would subject plaintiffs to a range of penalties, including license revocation."

"Under these circumstances, application of the rule to plaintiffs cannot be considered remote. Instead, the rule affects their business operations on a day-to-day basis and exposes plaintiffs to strong sanctions," the court added.

The lawsuit asks that the regulation, which provides for license revocation and steep fines for religiously-based refusals to dispense, be struck down because it violates the First Amendment, the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The trial court dismissed the lawsuit and a divided Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal on the grounds that the lawsuit was not ˜ripe’ for adjudication because the pharmacists had not yet actually suffered any concrete harm from the regulation.

The Illinois Supreme Court granted review of the case and heard arguments in March.

The case is Morr-Fitz, et al. v. Blagojevich, et al.

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