The circuit court in Springfield, Ill. on Friday issued a preliminary injunction in favor of two pharmacy owners who have been fighting to protect their right to conscientiously object to distributing abortifacient contraceptives.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing the pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, in the case of Morr-Fitz, Inc. v. Blagojevich.
The lawsuit was launched to fight against a 2005 executive order by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich forcing pharmacists and pharmacy owners to distribute the abortifacient morning-after pill. Blagojevich defended the executive order by saying that "right of conscience does not apply to pharmacists."
The ACLJ announced the injunction as the latest victory in an ongoing effort to protect the fundamental right of pharmacists to practice their profession without having to violate their conscience.
"The Attorney General’s Office has repeatedly argued that the Health Care Right of Conscience Act does not apply to the practice of pharmacy-and they have repeatedly failed," said Francis J. Manion, ACLJ Senior Counsel.
"While this is not a final decision on the merits of our lawsuit, the writing is on the wall. Our clients are entitled to run their pharmacies according to the dictates of their moral and religious beliefs. This is what the law allows; this is what the court has affirmed."
In the court’s decision, Judge John W. Belz ruled that "Plaintiffs have certain and ascertainable rights under state and federal law," and that the law forcing them to distribute emergency contraceptives is causing the plaintiffs to suffer "irreparable harm in the form of an ongoing chill of their free exercise rights and rights of conscience under federal and state law, as well as unlawful coercion based on their religious and moral beliefs."
The judge went on to find that the plaintiffs "have a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims."
As a result of the injunction, the pharmacists will be permitted to refuse to dispense Plan B and other forms of emergency contraception, if doing so would violate their religious or moral beliefs.
In Menges v. Blagojevich, the ACLJ represented seven individual pharmacists who succeeded in having the state amend the regulation to recognize the conscience rights of individual pharmacists. In Vandersand v. Walmart and Quayle v. Walgreens, the ACLJ convinced two other courts that Illinois pharmacists are protected by the State’s Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
The current case, Morr-Fitz, Inc. v. Blagojevich, seeks to ensure that pro-life pharmacy owners – not just individual pharmacists – receive the legal protection to which they are entitled under state laws as well as the U.S. Constitution.
The injunction will remain in place until a final ruling in the case is issued.
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