In a victory for pro-life pharmacists and pharmacies, an Illinois appellate court agreed that the state cannot force them to sell abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religious views.
After more than seven years of litigation, the court ruled former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s April 2005 mandate that all pharmacies and pharmacists sell Plan B (the “morning after pill”) is invalid. Blagojevich argued that pharmacy owners and pharmacists with religious objections should “find another profession” if they did not share his moral views about the drug.
In 2011, the trial court entered an injunction against the rule. The court found that there was no evidence that a religious objection had ever prevented anyone from getting the drugs. The court further found that the law was not neutral because it was designed to target religious objectors, and because it allowed pharmacies to refuse to sell drugs for a host of “common sense business reasons” but not for religious reasons.
In affirming the injunction, the court of appeals yesterday noted that Illinois law “prohibits discrimination in licensing” against a person or business who cannot provide healthcare services because of a religious objection. Accordingly, the court prohibited the state from enforcing the mandate against the plaintiffs.
“This decision is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund, who has represented the pharmacists since 2005. “The government shouldn’t kick business owners out of the market just because it dislikes their religious beliefs.”
Mark Rienzi of Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law served as co-counsel in the case and talked previously about the plaintiffs.
He commented: “Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog are competent and caring professionals who have been diligently serving the public for decades,” Rienzi said. “They happen to have a religious objection to one discreet kind of drugs — drugs that they believe interfere with human life at its earliest stages. In a pluralistic society that honors diversity there ought to be room for people like our clients to practice their professions without the threat of government sanctions. It’s significant that the court in this case found that Illinois officials produced no evidence whatsoever of anyone ever being unable to obtain the drugs at issue and that there is no realistic threat of danger to anyone’s health posed by allowing objecting pharmacists to step out of the way. The state’s arguments to the contrary simply did not hold up to scrutiny.”
The complaint alleged that then Gov. Rod Blagojevich violated the conscience rights of pharmacists and pharmacies by requiring them to dispense “emergency contraception” against their religious convictions.
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This victory for pharmacist conscience rights comes on the heels of the Becket Fund’s victory defending small business owners in Washington State from a similar rule in Stormans v. Selecky.
Read the opinion in the Illinois case here: