In a surprising overturn of a 6-year Illinois state rule that required pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz ruled last week on Tuesday, April 5th that the pharmacists were protected by the Illinois Healthcare Right of Conscience Act and the First Amendment of the Constitution when they refuse to perform services on moral or religious grounds.
“And now, Judge Belz has sided with the plaintiffs, who argue that the pill is tantamount to abortion and violates their religious beliefs, says the Sun-Times.
Of course, this is a somewhat contentious claim. Plan B is distinct from RU-486, the abortion pill. In most if not all cases, Plan B acts by preventing ovulation, according to the FDA. In some cases, it interferes with fertilization of the egg. And studies from the 1970 and ’80s suggested that there was some chance that the pill kept a newly-fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterine wall.
This last possibility provoked the outrage of hard-line anti-abortion activists, who believe that life begins at fertilization, and that the emergency contraceptive is therefore a very early form of abortion in those cases. But a slew of recent studies suggest that Plan B actually does not interfere with implantation.”
“The judge’s decision makes clear that religious people don’t have to give up their religion, don’t have to check their conscience at the door, to enter the health care profession,” Rienzi said.
Belz said Blagojevich’s ruling was unconstitutional and ran afoul of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Well that’s very convenient – so for the pharmacists, whose job entails dispensing legal medications to individuals, religious freedom goes so far as to allow them to not do their jobs. For the individuals who need the medications, however, their religious freedom (or freedom from religion, as it were) is apparently irrelevant.
Do you think this handy-dandy “moral” excuse would be applicable to pharmacists with non-Christian religious or moral beliefs? Or would this religious freedom mantra come to a screeching halt at the mere mention of the Koran or other religious text as the basis for refusing to do one’s job?
And at what point does this ‘religious freedom’ for the pharmacist end? If the pharmacist believes that all sex is wrong, would he be allowed to refuse to dispense all birth control prescriptions (not knowing the woman may even be taking birth control pills for non-contraceptive purposes)? How about Viagra? Or what if that pharmacist decides there should be no intervention in “God’s plan” – will that pharmacist still be able to keep his job while refusing to prescribe just about any medication? According to this judge’s ruling, the answer should be yes – if he is to be consistent. But we know this ruling would not apply to refusing to dispense Viagra, or any other legal medication that is not relevant to a woman’s reproduction or sex life.
Because this isn’t about religion. The Bible makes no mention of the morning-after pill (or abortion for that matter), and medicine has not shown that the morning-after pill affects a woman who is already pregnant in any way. This is about controlling women.
Robin Marty at RH Reality Check uncovers the religious right’s hypocrisy on the morning-after pill ruling by highlighting another bill working through the Illinois legislature:
“Meanwhile, Catholic groups in the state are also pushing to force women seeking abortions to have to have mandatory ultrasounds and provide them to pregnant women prior to the procedure as a “courtesy.” According to the Chicago Tribune:
[Catholic Conference of Illinois] would like to require women to view ultrasounds when considering abortion, but it says that wouldn’t pass in Illinois.
Opponents say the legislation would create an unnecessary hour of waiting time that is meant to be used to change a woman’s mind about the abortion.
Less prevention, more restrictions. Sounds right.”
This is not about preventing abortion, the well-being or health of the woman or potential child. Allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill, a pill which would prevent the need for a future abortion, while mandating an ultrasound and additional hour of waiting time to essentially emotionally bully the woman into not having an abortion – as it will reveal nothing the woman doesn’t already know about her being pregnant especially after the counseling provided before the abortion – shows the true motivations behind the anti-choice crowd. They do not trust women to make sound medical decisions with their doctors over their own bodies, but it appears to go even farther than that. They want to control IF the woman becomes pregnant in the first place by refusing to dispense emergency contraception that would prevent the need for an abortion. It seems that they can’t decide whether pregnancy is a punishment for sex or a gift from God.
Either way, there’s little doubt that they want to force pregnancy on women – even if they’re not pregnant yet.