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Gov digs in as pro-family groups attack pharmacy rule


4/12/2005 7:39:00 PM by ABDON M. PALLASCH AND DAVE MCKINNEY - Sun-Times


Both sides are preparing for what may turn into a legal battle over Gov. Blagojevich's order that pharmacists dispense contraceptives, even those that some pharmacists say kill embryos.


The Illinois Pharmacists Association asked Blagojevich to rescind his order. State Rep. Ron Stephens, a Downstate pharmacist, said, "I will not abide by it." The conservative Family PAC is urging pharmacists to ignore the order. And Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki implored Blagojevich from the pulpit to rescind the order.


The governor is standing firm.


On Monday, he warned Family PAC Director Paul Caprio the state would impose "significant penalties" on any pharmacy that ignores the order.


"In your call to pharmacists urging them to violate the emergency rule I issued, you neglected to remind them of the penalties their employers will face if they deny a woman her right to health care," Blagojevich wrote Caprio. Those penalties range from fines to losing their licenses, Blagojevich said.


Judge may decide


Blagojevich filed administrative charges against the Loop Osco where a pharmacist refused to dispense morning-after pills to two women. Invoking her "right of conscience," the pharmacist told the women to come back later and ask for a different pharmacist.


The state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act allows doctors and other "medical personnel" to avoid acting against their consciences.


The pharmacists believe the act covers them. Blagojevich and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan believe it does not. But both say a judge may ultimately decide.


Caprio says he has lined up lawyers to defend pharmacies that defy Blagojevich's order.


"For the minor inconvenience for a patient having to come back in an hour or to go to another pharmacy, we're going to make a moral judgment for [the pharmacist]?" said Stephens, a Republican from Highland.


Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville) said his family-run pharmacy does not stock the morning-after pill.


Two calls to hotline


"In my drugstore, we've had one individual come in," Watson said. "The pharmacist and our store directed them to somebody else because we don't stock it. We never have. There's no demand for it, except that one time."


Since Blagojevich started a toll-free number a week ago for women who were denied contraceptives at Illinois pharmacies, two more women have called, said Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff.




Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved