By Ann Rubin
(KSDK) — Walgreens put four Illinois pharmacists on unpaid leave Monday for refusing to fill prescriptions for the "morning after pill."
The pharmacists say they're standing up for their beliefs. Walgreens says they're violating state law.
The "morning after pill" is also called Plan B. It is often prescribed to prevent or terminate pregnancy.
But pharmacist John Menges says it is the one prescription he won't fill, "I can advise people what pharmacies to go to. I mean, I can help them in every way. But I can't actually fill them because of my religious belief."
For this reason, Walgreens has put Menges and three other pharmacists on indefinite unpaid leave.
One of them asked that we hide his identity since he'll soon be searching for a new job, "I'm not imposing my beliefs on someone else, I'm telling them I choose not to participate in what they're going to do. Now that's not imposing my will on them, it's just saying leave me out of this. On the other hand, they're telling me I have to do this, so they're imposing their will on me."
Illinois has a new law relating to this type of emergency contraceptive. It says that pharmacies must fill these prescriptions and in a timely manner.
Walgreens says this law is forcing them to take drastic action. Spokesman Michael Polzin says, "If a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription in Illinois, they are putting the pharmacy's license at risk, as well as the pharmacist in charge at that store."
Illinois has long had something called the "Right Conscience Act," which allows all healthcare professionals to make judgements based on their own code of ethics.
Still according to the SIUE College of Pharmacy, the patient's health is supposed to come first, with or without the new law.
Professor Chris Lynch says, "The pharmacists' responsibility to themselves, their moral responsibility to themselves, should be superceded by their responsibility to their patients' healthcare."
The four Walgreens pharmacists, two men and two women, say they will take a stand and they will fight this in court. Menges says, "That's what I let them know, my faith and my religion is more important than this job."
In other states, Walgreens' policy is to allow pharmacists to decline to fill prescriptions according to their beliefs. But they say the new law makes Illinois an exception to this rule. They say they are offering the four pharmacists work in Missouri if they choose.