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What State Pharmacy Laws Say About Refusal to Dispense Drugs

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
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Following a seven-year-long legal battle over two Illinois pharmacists refusing to dispense Plan B pills, a ruling finally was issued in favor of Luke VanderBleek and Glen Kosirog. The two Christian pharmacists sought a religious exemption from an executive order requiring all pharmacies and pharmacists in Illinois to fill the Plan B pill, also known as the morning after pill.

This order from former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was mandated in 2005 in order to prevent pregnancy. However, for these two pharmacists and other opponents, they view this pill as an abortion pill. Because of their religious beliefs, the two men did not want to dispense Plan B pills or feel like they should be punished if they refuse to offer this service.

They filed a lawsuit claiming that the Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act should protect them from refusing to fill this drug.

While a circuit court dismissed their claim in 2008, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that a court must hear it. Now, an Illinois appeals court recently ruled in their favor on September 21, that they may refuse to dispense the morning after pill “due to their conscience”. However, this ruling does not apply to other Illinois pharmacists, which may create other similar cases.

Two pharmacists at a family-owned Ralph’s pharmacy in Olympia, Washington are now facing a similar legal battle as the Washington State Board of Pharmacy implemented rules that all pharmacists supply emergency contraceptives with exemptions for pharmacists with religious objections. However, the rules didn’t give businesses an exemption. Thus, a suit was filed against this Ralph’s pharmacy.

This topic will in fact be given much attention nationwide due to the strong views by both sides and the different state pharmacy laws.

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