Pharmacists Win Battle Against Emergency Contraceptives - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Pharmacists Win Battle Against Emergency Contraceptives

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Can pharmacists choose to refuse the prescriptions they fill? It's a question tonight as two pharmacists win the right to do just that. 

This has been debated in Illinois since at least 2005. 

That's when then-governor Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order, requiring all Illinois pharmacists to fill prescriptions for FDA-approved drugs, including emergency contraceptives like Plan B.  

Two pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog filed a lawsuit challenging it, and the case bounced around courts on the local, appellate, and even the state supreme court level until 2008. 

That's when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled lower courts must hear the case. Both sided with the pharmacists. 

And last week, the Illinois Attorney General said they wouldn't try another appeal, ending a long legal battle for the two pharmacists who say they won a right they had all along.

 VanderBleek owns one of three pharmacies including Fitzgerald Pharmacy in Morrison, and if you're looking for the 'morning-after' pill, you won't find it here.   

"We've never dispensed these medicines, it's never been a problem with our patients," VanderBleek says, "If someone presents me with a prescription, I'm going to continue to respectfully decline to fill the prescription." 

When a 2005 mandate threatened to revoke the pharmacy's license, VanderBleek says he didn't have any other choice but to take a stand. 

"I believe from the moment of conception, the human needs to be respected," he says, "I didn't enter pharmacy to violate that in any way." 

The issue affects big box stores like Walgreens too. In 2007, a case between Walgreens and a group of former employees ruled those pharmacists had the right to deny filling the medications because of their ‘conscientious rights.'   

Now that right will be extended to VanderBleek's pharmacies too.  

"This has been a right of pharmacists for 100 years, a governor came at the profession of pharmacy in 2005 and said, ‘I want to take that right away,' and we stood up and said no we think that right is ours to keep," VanderBleek says.

While this ruling only applies to the two named in the lawsuit, VanderBleek says it might set an example for others. 

"If anybody benefits from the leadership we've taken in this, that's great, but that's not why we personally did it, we did it to preserve our own situation," he says, "Anybody who's in the same position as I am, it certainly helps that the trail's been blazed a little bit."