(RNS) Pharmacists with religious objections to “morning-after” emergency contraceptives cannot be compelled to sell the product, an Illinois Circuit Judge ruled Tuesday (April 5).
The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act was passed in 1998 to shield health care workers from going against their own beliefs. In 2005, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a ruling to force “pharmacies to fill prescriptions without making moral judgments.”
Two pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, sued for the right to not dispense the pills.
Circuit Judge John Belz wrote that the 1998 law “was designed to forbid the government from doing what it aims to do here: coercing individuals or entities to provide healthcare services that violate their belief.”
Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represented the pharmacists with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling “a very good thing.”
“The judge’s decision makes clear that religious people don’t have to give up their religion, don’t have to check their conscience at the door, to enter the health care profession,” Rienzi said.
Belz said Blagojevich’s ruling was unconstitutional and ran afoul of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“It has been a big burden on (VanderBleek and Kosirog) to not know if they will be able to continue to practice the only profession they have ever known,” said Rienzi. “They are very happy to be out from under that burden.”
The state attorney general’s office will appeal the decision, said spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler, citing “a compelling need for emergency contraceptives to be available at all licensed pharmacies in the state of Illinois.”
- RICHARD YEAKLEY, Religion News Service