Illinois Cannot Punish Pharmacists with Religious Objections to Abortion-Inducing Drugs

Image: Illinois Cannot Punish Pharmacists with Religious Objections to Abortion-Inducing Drugs

Final Victory for Illinois Pharmacists as State Declines Appeal

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2012
Media Contact: Emily Hardman, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224

Washington, D.C. – Today, the state of Illinois declined to appeal the recent victory for two pharmacists after the Illinois Court of Appeals ruled the state cannot force pharmacies and pharmacists to sell abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religion.

“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.”

The case has its roots in former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s April 2005 mandate that all pharmacies and pharmacists sell Plan B (the “morning after pill”).  The Governor 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 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 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.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty  is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law, and they recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Emily Hardman, Communications Director, ehardman@becketfund.org, 202.349.7224.

Additional Information:

Notice  – US Attorney’s Office

Illinois Court of Appeals Opinion (September 21, 2012)

Case Page (media information sheet, images, legal doc, additional resources)

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