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Illinois pharmacists ask state high court to overturn emergency contraception rule

[JURIST] A lawyer representing a group of Illinois pharmacists asked the state supreme court Tuesday to strike down a 2005 emergency rule [press release] issued by Illinois Governor Rod Blogjevich which requires pharmacies to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, including emergency contraception. During oral arguments [recorded video], the pharmacists' lawyer argued that the rule requires them to dispense drugs contrary to their personal morals, or risk losing their license, in violation of the state Health Care Right of Conscience Act [text]. Lawyers for the state said that the pharmacists do not have standing because none of them have been penalized under the rule, nor have they shown that they are at risk of such penalties.

Last year, a separate group of Illinois pharmacists agreed to settle similar claims [JURIST report] under a deal that would permit them to refuse to fill prescriptions for the drug, so long as the pharmacy works with another pharmacist by phone to dispense the contraceptive. Final approval of the settlement is still pending. In a different ongoing Illinois lawsuit for monetary damages [JURIST report] brought by four pharmacists against Walgreens [corporate website], the pharmacists say they were illegally fired after refusing to sign a pledge to dispense the "morning-after" pill. Washington state has a similar law requiring pharmacists to dispense emergency contraceptives; a federal judge suspended the Washington law [JURIST report] late last year. AP has more.

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