SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) — A judge has ruled that Illinois pharmacists cannot be forced to dispense emergency contraception.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports, a Circuit Judge John Belz of downstate Sangamon County has ruled that requiring pharmacists to sell the so-called “morning after” pill violates the state’s right of conscience law.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Lisa Fielding reports

Pharmacists Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, and the three drugstores they own and operate, filed a lawsuit in 2005, challenging a rule imposed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

When Blagojevich introduced the rule, he said pharmacists had an obligation to fill all prescriptions despite any personal qualms. Someone in need of emergency contraception should always be able to get it, “No delays. No hassles. No lectures,” he said then.

Circuit and appellate courts originally dismissed the claim. They ruled the pharmacists had no standing to file a lawsuit because the druggists had not lost their jobs or suffered other repercussions because of it.

But in 2008, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the pharmacists’ claim must be considered.

The Plan B contraception pill is a concentrated dose of the same drug found in birth control pills and is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. Doctors say the drugs should not be confused with the abortion pill, RU-486.

VanderBleek and Kosirog objected on religious grounds to dispensing the pill, and say it is tantamount to abortion.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office plans to appeal the ruling.

In 2003, an FDA advisory panel ruled Plan B safe and effective, but the agency denied over-the-counter status. That got top Democrats like then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) involved, who decided to block the confirmation of President Bush’s choice for FDA chief until Plan B was approved. The pill was approved for over-the-counter status in 2006.

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