Casey Mattox
A court has recently stopped Illinois from enforcing a rule that denied freedom of conscience to pharmacists. This is a cause for celebration and an excellent legal win. But as the left reacts hysterically to the supposed lack of access to Plan B that will result, one pharmacist’s story perfectly demonstrates the fundamental flaw at the core of any effort to deny freedom of conscience: compelled violations of conscience won’t expand access, they’ll reduce it.

In April 2005, Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an emergency rule, bypassing the usual regulatory process, mandating that every Illinois pharmacist must dispense all “contraceptives” (including potential abortifacients like Plan B) “upon demand.”

David Scimio was a Christian pro-life pharmacist suddenly facing a government mandate that would force him to violate his conscience and assist in the termination of a human life. He became one of the first pharmacists to challenge Blagojevich’s executive order, one of the first shots fired in the recent wave of attacks on conscience freedoms.

The supposed purpose of Blagojevich’s emergency rule—and all such denials of conscience rights for medical professionals—is that “access” to abortion, abortifacients, sterilizations, assisted suicide, contraception, etc., requires that those opposed to being personally involved in these practices must sacrifice their conscience.

Strangely, these claims are often buttressed by appeals to widespread support in the medical community for these same practices. If medical professionals think abortion is such a great and noble practice, then why is it necessary to force medical professionals to perform them? It’s like East Berlin telling the world that its citizens love it there…while it patrols a wall to keep them in.

Scimio worked at an Albertsons’ pharmacy in suburban Chicago. The American Pharmacists Association recognized his right of conscience, and Albertsons always had as well, perhaps recognizing that the way to keep good professionals on staff was to treat them like professionals. Other pharmacists at Albertsons and at other pharmacies within blocks of Albertsons would dispense Plan B. Yet, the fact that Scimio and a few others like him would not personally dispense Plan B was deemed an “emergency” demanding immediate government action. And so Blagojevich, flanked by Planned Parenthood representatives, announced his unilateral action at a press conference.

Casey Mattox

Casey Mattox is senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom