By Kathleen Gilbert

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, April 6, 2009 ( – A Sangamon county judge has temporarily barred the Governor of Illinois and other state officials from enforcing a 2005 executive order requiring all pharmacists to dispense the abortifacient morning-after pill.  The temporary restraining order comes as part of ongoing litigation to protect the conscience rights of Illinois pharmacists.

In issuing the order, Judge John Belz found that the 2005 order issued by then-Governor Rod Blagojevich posed a real threat to pharmacists with religious objections to selling the abortifacient drug.

The judge said that Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, two Illinois pharmacists who refused to sign a pledge complying with the order, were “likely to succeed” on the merits of their claim that the regulation violates state law giving pharmacists the right to refuse practices that violate their religious beliefs.

Blagojevich had issued the order in spite of the statute, known as the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act, saying that the “right of conscience does not apply to pharmacists.” 

A hearing on the pharmacists’ request for a permanent injunction is expected to be held in June.

“This is yet another step on the road to full protection for the rights of conscience of all health care workers,” said Francis J. Manion, American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Senior Counsel, who argued in favor of the motion for the temporary restraining order on behalf of the pharmacists.  The ACLJ has been fighting on behalf of Illinois pharmacists since the 2005 order.

“In ruling in favor of our clients, the court rejected the attempt of Illinois officials to trample on the rights of our clients and disregard existing laws passed by the legislature for the very purpose of protecting those rights,” said Manion. 

“We will continue to press this issue until we have obtained full protection for the conscience rights of these professionals who should not have to choose between their deeply held religious beliefs and license revocation and other penalties.”

See related coverage:

Illinois Court Rules Pharmacists May Reject Plan B

Pharmacist Vows He Will Not Dispense Abortifacient Despite Job Loss

Walgreens Disciplines Four Pharmacists for Refusing Abortifacient Morning-After Pill Prescriptions

Illinois Governor Mandates Pharmacists Dispense Abortion Causing Morning-After Pills or Face Consequence