CHICAGO – An Illinois pharmacist says he's being pressured by the state to sell a certain kind of oral contraceptive despite his objection to it for moral reasons.
Click in the box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Jeff Goldblatt.
A new rule in Illinois — the first of its kind in the United States — tells pharmacists that if they're in the business of selling contraceptives, they must fill all contraceptive prescriptions, including those for so-called "morning-after" birth-control pills.
Luke Vander Bleek (search) owns four pharmacies in suburban Chicago and is one of several pharmacists suing Gov. Rod Blagojevich (search) over the administrative rule, which was approved by a rule-making panel of the Illinois Legislature last week.
Vander Bleek said he sells regular oral contraceptives, but is not willing to sell the "morning-after" pill known as Plan B (search).
He considers it tantamount to abortion, since it is taken after sexual intercourse and can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Plan B should not be confused with the "abortion pill," Mifeprex (search) or RU-486 (search), which induces miscarriage at up to three months.
"We believe that the governor is attempting to create a situation where he's defining my morality for me," said Vander Bleek. "He's saying that, 'Mr. Vander Bleek, if you are going to stock emergency contraceptives and you morally accept contraceptives' — which we do — 'then you morally accept this emergency contraceptive or Plan B.'"
Blagojevich, a Democrat elected in 2002, says pharmacists who deny customers any form of legal birth control could lose their licenses.
"It's really just as simple as making sure that women don't get hassled or harassed when they go to the drugstore to buy their birth control," said Blagojevich. "It's a very simple concept and it shouldn't be threatening anybody."
The Illinois rule was created earlier this year after two separate incidents in which women were denied Plan B pills by pharmacists.
Nationally, no exact figures have been collected to determine the number of women denied oral contraceptives, but advocacy groups tracking the controversy say indicators suggest it's happening more frequently.
One of those indicators is the number of states that have introduced legislation on the issue.
Since 1997, lawmakers in 28 states have introduced bills to protect a pharmacist's right to say no, and four states now permit pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions based on their personal beliefs.
Seven states and Canada allow pharmacists to dispense Plan B without a prescription.
An application is pending with the Food and Drug Administration (search) to permit over-the-counter sales of Plan B for girls and women over 16. The FDA promises a decision by Sept. 1.