Illinois Pharmacists Don’t Have To Give You Emergency Contraception

Earlier this week, an Illinois judge ruled that pharmacists cannot be required to dispense emergency contraception.  He cited the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act in his decision, which favored two pharmacists who said that they did not want to sell the “morning-after pill” on religious grounds.  The ruling was in response to a 2005 order from then-governor Rod Blagojevich, who said that pharmacists had to fill orders for emergency contraception, regardless of their moral objections.

Although Plan B, or the “morning-after pill,” does not terminate a pregnancy, but it does work very effectively to prevent pregnancy in the 72 hours after a contraceptive failure.  Pro-life groups consistently conflate emergency contrapcetion with abortion, leading healthcare workers, like these pharmacists, to claim a moral opposition to dispensing the drug.

In a statement, the chief counsel for the two pharmacists said, “After six long years of litigation, our clients have finally prevailed against a state gvoernment determined to coerce them and pro-life pharmacists into violating their deeply held religious beliefs or give up their livelihoods.”  The Illinois Attorney General plans to appeal, saying that there is a “compelling need” for emergency contraception to be available at all licensed pharmacies.

The issue of access is a crucial one here, especially since it’s difficult to get hard statistics on how often women are refused emergency contraception.  The judge said, in the ruling, that “the court heard no evidence of a single person who was ever unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection.”  This is despite the fact that, in 2005, NARAL’s Nancy Keenan said that even though there isn’t a mechanism for women to report access denial, “we have heard about cases from Beverly Hills to Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Chicago – it seems to be all over the country.”

Either way, it’s distressing to see another encroachment on women’s reproductive rights, especially since in all of these conversations about violation of religious beliefs, no one is talking about women’s rights to access legal drugs.  And it’s especially depressing in light of Obama’s success in rescinding the Bush administration “conscience clause” in March.  The fight may have to begin again, but on the state rather than the national level.

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Photo from Flickr.


William C
William C4 months ago


W. C
W. C4 months ago

Thank you for the information.

Cheryl T.
Cheryl Thacker7 years ago

Of course pharmacists should fill prescriptions. That is their job. But in the meantime, can't they be filled online and shipped overnight? Protects privacy, too. What am I missing here?

Danika Skalet
Danika Murphy7 years ago

I am a prolife person and still think that this is absurd Plan B does not terminate your pregnancy so if you did get pregnant before taking it it won't hurt your baby so whats the big deal all it pretty much is is a high dose of birth control. Besides if you choose to be a pharmacist you know that you may have to sell this it's like being a doctor who refuses to give a patient a physical. Like I said this is absurd and needs to be changed.

Christine S.

I wish the pro-life idiots would get it into their heads that this pill prevents pregnancy, it's not killing a baby! Plus the pharmacist could counsel the woman to see a doctor for better birth control options so that she wouldn't use this method again.

Jeanne M.
Jeanne M7 years ago

If you don't want to dispense the drug, get out of the pharmacy and into the pulpit.

Louise D.
Louise D7 years ago

This is sort of condeming women for having sex now, given the way the Pro-life brigade continously contradicts itself, really do they think that by denying people the right to plan families is going to do them any good. Still I am sure that the pharmacists are worried that this will reduce the need for men to buy condoms, which is always a nice littler earner.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson7 years ago

good grief.

Lillian Martin
Lillian Martin7 years ago

Then any pharmacist for any reason could deny a prescription to anyone. Ridiculous!

Bobbie T.
Bobbie T7 years ago

I agree with Kimberly G. Everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs BUT they DO NOT have the right to imopose their beliefs on others. If your religion is more important than doing your job...find a new job. Wonder how people would feel if firemen were oppossed to fighting fires because the home owner was gay or athiest or a bi-racial couple or unmarried couple? How long would you last on a police force if you refused to shoot because killing was against your beliefs? Wait...I forgot...the anti abortion bunch believe it's ok to murder doctors for doing what the supreme court long ago said was within a womans rights. Why are you not equaly offened that the same pharmacist that refuses to fill Plan B
WILL fill Viagra scrips? Stop filling viagra and there will be less need for the Plan B.