Friday, December 19, 2008

Illinois Supreme Court: Pharmacies Can Challenge Governor Blagojevich's Anti-Conscience Rule

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled yesterday that pharmacies that do not wish to stock Plan B, a drug used as an "emergency contraceptive" but which can prevent the development of an already fertilized egg, may challenge a rule issued by Governor Rod Blagojevich mandating that they fill such prescriptions despite their conscientious objections.

The plaintiffs challenged the rule in state court under state and federal laws protecting conscience, including the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the First Amendment. The Illinois trial court ruled against the plaintiffs, holding that the case was not yet ripe for adjudication.

The Center, on behalf of the Christian Legal Society and Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International, and with substantial assistance from attorneys with the Columbia, SC firm, Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, filed an amicus brief arguing that the case was ripe. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the trial court, holding that the claim was indeed ripe for adjudication.

The case will now return to the state trial court for a decision on the merits of the Plaintiffs' claims. While the State Supreme Court's opinion does not weigh in on the merits directly, language used in the opinion may indicate that the justices believe that the pharmacies have a strong case. The court noted, "In our opinion, this is largely a case involving a question of law–whether pharmacists and pharmacies can be compelled to violate their consciences and religious beliefs inviolation of two Illinois statutes and the first amendment."