SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (BP)--Pro-life pharmacists in Illinois won a big victory April 5 when a state judge struck down a six-year-old requirement that forced all pharmacists to dispense "morning-after" and "emergency contraception" pills that can cause abortions.

The ruling by Judge John W. Belz will be appealed by the state but nevertheless is a significant victory in the six-year legal battle. Then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich put the order in place in 2005.

Francis J. Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing the pro-life pharmacists, called it a "major victory for the rights of conscience."

"After six long years of litigation, our clients have finally prevailed against a state government determined to coerce them and all pro-life pharmacists into violating their deeply held religious beliefs or give up their livelihoods," Manion said. "Judge Belz's decision makes clear that both Illinois state law and the First Amendment will not permit this. This country was founded by people with a strong commitment to religious freedom. That's why freedom of religion is the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights.

"For government at any level to try to run roughshod over that freedom is to abdicate the government's primary responsibility."

Plan B works to restrict ovulation in a female. It also can act after conception, thereby causing an abortion, pro-lifers point out. This mechanism of the drug blocks implantation of a tiny embryo in the uterine wall.

In his ruling, Belz said he "heard no evidence of a single person who ever was unable to obtain emergency contraception because of a religious objection."

IDAHO MAY BAN ABORTIONS AFTER 20 WEEKS -- An Idaho bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is headed to Republican Gov. Butch Otter, who is expected to sign it. Similar to a Nebraska law, the bill passed the Idaho House 54-14 April 5 after passing the Senate, 24-10, in March. The bill's premise is based on evidence unborn children experience pain after 20 weeks in gestation. It often is called a "fetal pain bill."

Other states are considering similar legislation in what is a new tactic for the pro-life movement.

"We want to use legislation in as many ways as possible to talk about the humanity of the unborn child," said Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for National Right to Life.

Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.

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