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State

Ruling favors Morrison pharmacist

SPRINGFIELD – A central Illinois judge has ruled that the state can’t force two pharmacists with religious objections to abortion to dispense emergency contraception.

Sangamon County Circuit Judge John Belz issued a temporary restraining order Friday until he can hear arguments against the rule from druggists who object on religious grounds.

The pill reduces the chance of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of sex. The pharmacists believe it’s tantamount to abortion.

Belz is the same judge who sided with the state and dismissed the lawsuit filed in 2005 by Luke VanderBleek of Morrison and Glenn Kosirog, who own five northern Illinois pharmacies between them.

The restraining order applies only to VanderBleek’s and Kosirog’s pharmacies. But Francis Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the pharmacists, doubts the state would enforce the rule elsewhere before the case is decided.

Manion expects a hearing in Belz’s court in June.

Louis Pukelis, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which enforces the rule, had no comment on the order other than to say the state “will, of course, comply with all its provisions.”

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in December that the pharmacists’ case must be heard. The court decided then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who issued a rule in 2005 ordering pharmacies to dispense the so-called “morning-after” pill, had made statements indicating there would be no exceptions.

“You cannot enact a law that targets people because of their religious objection,” Manion said Monday.

The lawsuit focuses on a state law that prohibits forcing health care decisions over religious objections. The plaintiffs argue constitutional rights as well, such as the free exercise of religion.

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