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Appeals court: State can’t force pharmacists to sell ‘morning-after pill’

Updated: September 21, 2012 10:12PM

An Illinois appeals court this week sided with a lower court’s ruling that the state can’t force pharmacists with religious objections to sell emergency contraception — the so-called “morning-after pill.”

The Fourth District appeals court agreed with a judge in Sangamon County, who ruled that a state rule mandating all pharmacists in Illinois dispense the controversial contraception cannot be enforced against pharmacists who object to doing so for religious reasons without violating the state’s “Conscience Act.”

The appeals court found that a pharmacist “may not be discriminated against or punished civilly or criminally if they make a conscience-based decision not to comply” with the rule, according to the ruling filed Thursday.

Pharmacists Luke VanderBleek, a lifelong Roman Catholic, and Glenn Kosirog, a Christian since age 17, and the three drug stores they operate sued over an “emergency rule” Blagojevich imposed in 2005, which forced pharmacists in the state to dispense contraceptives, including the Plan B contraception pill, also known as the morning-after pill. VanderBleek and Kosirog objected to the rule on religious grounds.

Last year, a judge in Sangamon County Circuit Court ruled that Illinois pharmacists couldn’t be forced to dispense the controversial pill, a decision the state appealed.

“It is sad that the court expressly refused to consider the interest of women who are seeking lawful prescription for medication, essentially holding that religious practice trumps women’s health care,” said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the ACLU of Illinois, which filed a brief in support of the state. “The court could not be more wrong.”

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