By Hilary White
  ST. LOUIS, Illinois, October 17, 2007 ( – The rights of pharmacists and other health care professionals to refuse to dispense abortifacient drugs have taken a step forward, according to a statement from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). A long running dispute between the state of Illinois, pharmacy owners such as Walgreens and Walmart stores and several pharmacists who refused to dispense abortifacient drugs has resulted in an agreement that pharmacists must be allowed to opt out.
  In 2005, Walgreens pharmacist Rich Quayle was suspended from his job and said he would look for other work rather than agree to dispense the “morning after pill” in accord with a recently passed law. In April 2005, Governor Rod Blagojevich said that the “right of conscience does not apply to pharmacists” and issued an edict attempting to force all pharmacists in the state to distribute the drugs.
  In response the ACLJ filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that Walgreens engaged in unlawful religious discrimination by suspending indefinitely Quayle and two of his colleagues who requested accommodation of their religious objections to dispensing the “morning-after pill.”
  By the end of 2005, the ACLJ was involved in a series of interconnected legal actions in the matter, including suing Walgreens, Walmart and Governor Blagojevich on behalf of seven pharmacists on the grounds that the governor’s rule violated pharmacists’ constitutional and statutory rights under Health Care Right of Conscience Act.
  The ACLJ issued a media release this week saying that the state of Illinois has agreed that the Governor’s rule “does not apply to individual pharmacists, and that the state will never apply it to individual pharmacists”. ACLJ lawyer Frank Manion said that despite cases still pending against Walgreens and Walmart, “we’ve now got his attorney general’s office on our side when it comes to the question of whether or not pharmacists are covered by the Right of Conscience Act”.
“Considering what we we’ve been up against in this state, these are all significant developments,” he wrote.
  The governor has “been forced to retreat from his original position” and recognize pharmacists as health care professionals with a right of conscientious objection. The state must now find a way to try to acknowledge their objections and establish a procedure to accommodate most situations.
  Manion wrote, “We forced the most pro-abortion Governor in the country to eat his words and to backtrack a long way from his April 2005 bluster and we’ve now got his attorney general’s office on our side when it comes to the question of whether or not pharmacists are covered by the Right of Conscience Act.”
  The question of exactly how the rule will apply is still open but, Manion writes, “The major question has been settled.”
“Objecting pharmacists cannot be threatened, harassed, or forced to dispense Plan B against their conscientious convictions without their employers a) violating the state’s Rule; b) violating the Health Care Right of Conscience Act.”
  Read related coverage:

  ACLJ to Defend Two Pharmacists Fired for Refusing to Provide Abortifacients