The action today by the Illinois Supreme Court returns to the lower courts the controversy regarding pharmacists' refusal to provide contraceptives to their patients. In adopting the challenged regulation, the State of Illinois recognized a critical public health concern in the increasing discrimination against women who are thwarted in their attempts to purchase prescription contraceptives in Illinois pharmacies when pharmacies fail to ensure a woman's access to contraception in the face of an individual pharmacist's religious objection. The Supreme Court today did not address the merits of the regulation - which seeks to achieve the appropriate balance between the important, though in this context, competing constitutional interests of the right to free exercise of religion and the right to access reproductive health care. The Court ruled today that the dispute between the state and objecting pharmacists should be subject to further proceedings in the lower courts, particularly in light of the fact that the regulation at issue was amended while this matter was pending in the Supreme Court.

The ACLU of Illinois believes that the regulation governing the actions of pharmacies presented with legitimate prescriptions for contraceptives will be upheld after further proceedings below. The rule properly balances two competing and critical constitutional interests - religious liberty and access to reproductive health care. The ACLU of Illinois will continue to support the need to strike this appropriate balance in order to protect the individual interests of pharmacists while ensuring access to health care for women in Illinois.