In 2005, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich mandated that all pharmacies and pharmacists sell “Plan B” (morning after pill) abortion-inducing drugs. The governor’s position was that pharmacists do not have religious freedom or conscience rights; he told them to “find another profession” if they could not sell these drugs. This is similar to the arguments used by the Obama administration in forcing the HHS mandate on people of faith with conscience objections–the administration holds that you lose your religious freedoms when you start a business.
An Illinois appellate court has found that Governor Blagojevich’s rule is invalid. This ruling follows seven years of litigation. Along the way, a trial court entered an injunction against the rule; there was no evidence that any religious objection had stopped anyone from obtaining the drugs. The law was found not to be neutral–it targeted religious objectors, but allowed pharmacies to decline to sell the drugs for business reasons.
The Becket Fund is representing the pharmacists, and Mark Rienzi, senior counsel, stated:
This decision is a great victory for religious freedom. The government shouldn’t kick business owners out of the market just because it dislikes their religious beliefs.
Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog are competent and caring professionals who have been diligently serving the public for decades. 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 appellate court upheld the injunction, ruling that the governor’s mandate is contrary to Illinois law, which prohibits discrimination in licensing against a person or business who, because of religious objection, cannot provide healthcare services.