“This decision has dramatic implications for all people of faith who object to being forced to throw aside their convictions to support an anti-life agenda,” said AUL’s Dr. Charmaine Yoest
WASHINGTON, D.C. (12-11-12) – After seven years in court, the decision by the Illinois Attorney General not to file an appeal in Morr-Fitz vs. Quinn means that Illinois pharmacists finally cannot be forced to dispense life-ending drugs against their Rights of Conscience. Those rights are protected under the Illinois Health Care Rights of Conscience Act and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as the U.S. Constitution. Americans United for Life attorneys have been engaged in the case since 2005, defending the freedoms of pharmacists Luke Vander Bleek and Glenn Kosirog, representing their interests in court along with several Illinois pharmacies owned by them.
“This is a tremendous victory. Rights of conscience are under assault today and this case is a rebuke to those who argue that the government can violate the First Amendment Rights of Americans by forcing them to advance an anti-life agenda. This includes the abortion industry which aggressively supported the coercive mandate in Illinois and is arguing for similar measures in other states,” said Americans United for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest.
In 2005, AUL filed a lawsuit challenging a rule issued by then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich forcing pharmacists and pharmacies to dispense so-called “emergency contraceptives” “without delay.” At that point, then-Director of AUL’s Center for Rights of Conscience Ed Martin was lead counsel in the case along with AUL Staff Counsel Mailee Smith. When the suit was filed, Martin noted:
“Luke Vander Bleek is suing to protect his rights as an American — his right to build a business, contribute to society as a health care professional, and to live according to his principles. The Governor is trampling the rights of health care professionals and small business owners through his emergency rule.”
AUL Advisory Board member, Mark L. Rienzi, law professor at Catholic University and Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund, took over the case in 2006.
“We are delighted with the decision,” said Rienzi. “The government should not have tried to force these pharmacists out of business for their religious objection to selling a small handful of drugs. Over seven years of litigation, there was never a shred of proof that a religious objection at a pharmacy harmed anyone. These pharmacists do a wonderful job serving their communities, and the state’s decision not to appeal lets them get back to that important work.”
Over the course of the litigation, AUL filed three amicus briefs in the case. Two were filed before the Illinois Supreme Court and argued that both federal and Illinois law protected pharmacists’ freedom of conscience, that freedom of conscience is an historic right “steeped in the history and tradition” of America, and that the post-fertilization effect of “emergency contraception” is objectionable to many pharmacists who also should be free to exercise their First Amendment Rights of Conscience.
For more on this case, and AUL’s involvement, click here.