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Kan. Gov. Brownback Signs Law Allowing Pharmacists To Refuse To Fill Prescriptions

Kan. Gov. Brownback Signs Law Allowing Pharmacists To Refuse To Fill Prescriptions

May 15, 2012 — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has signed into law a bill (H Sub SB 62) that will allow pharmacists and other health care providers to refuse to prescribe, dispense or administer drugs that they "reasonably believe" could end a pregnancy, the Wichita Eagle reports. Health care providers who refuse to provide services will not be required to refer patients elsewhere.

Critics of the law have said it would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for contraception, including emergency contraception. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lance Kinzer (R), said the law is intended to cover medication abortion drugs, not EC. He said a pharmacist would need a "reasonable medical basis" to believe a drug would end a pregnancy. Individuals who are fired or sued for refusing to provide a drug could try to prove in court that they had a basis for believing it could have caused an abortion, he added (Cooper, Wichita Eagle, 5/14).

The law will take effect on July 1. Supporters of the bill have argued that it simply updates decades-old provisions stating that doctors and hospitals are not required to participate in abortion or sterilization procedures. However, the bill would extend those protections to clinics, physician offices and other non-hospital facilities. In addition, it would expand the protections to include referring patients for services and providing prescriptions.

Opponents of the legislation have noted that patients would not know a provider's position until they are refused treatment. They said the bill is broad enough to allow providers to refuse to provide birth control, as well as lifesaving treatments, such as chemotherapy, for a pregnant woman (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/3).