An Illinois judge has ruled in favor of two pro-life pharmacists who don't want to dispense the so-called "morning-after pill," or Plan B, on religious grounds.
On Tuesday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz struck down a 6-year-old state law that required Illinois pharmacies to dispense emergency contraception.
"We're thrilled," Mark Rienzi, a Catholic University law professor and one of the pharmacy owners lawyers, said after the ruling.
"The law of Illinois and the law of the United States make it clear that people can enter the health care profession without having to check their conscience or religion at the door," he said.
Glen Kosirog and Luke Vander Bleek, the pharmacists in the case, told CBN News they believe "Plan B" is an abortion pill. They pointed out that while the drug is designed to prevent fertilization, it can also kill a fertilized egg.
The circuit court judge appeared to sympathize with the pharmacists, ruling that forcing them to sell the pill would violate their right-of-conscience under Illinois law, and their religious rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Pro-choice groups like the National Women's Law Center were dismayed over Tuesday's decision.
"Women are sometimes humiliated, yelled at, proselytized to and otherwise have to leave the pharmacy humiliated without their prescription filled," said Judy Waxman, vice president and director of health and reproductive rights for the National Women's Law Center.
But Kosirog and Vander Bleek say such situations require good intentions -- and diplomacy.
"We respectfully and compassionately and confidentially return the prescription to the patient and just inform them that we don't stock it and don't order the product," Vander Bleek said.
"These pharmacists are not trying to stop any physician from giving it out," Renzi said. "They're not trying to stop any woman who wants to take the drug from taking the drug."
"They're just saying 'I, in good conscience, can't be a part of it. Please go down the street, and please don't put me out of business,'" he explained.
Pro-life advocates indicated the ruling is in keeping with 47 other states, which currently have some type of conscience protections laws. They stress, however, that protection varies widely from state to state.
Despite the court's decision, the battle is not over for the two pharmacists. The state attorney general's office said it plans to file an appeal.
"We're disappointed with the ruling," Robyn Ziegler, spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said. "There is a compelling need for emergency contraceptives to be available at all licensed pharmacies in Illinois."