Kan. Senate Sends Bill to Governor To Increase Refusal Protections for Health Care Providers

May 3, 2012 — The Kansas Senate on Wednesday passed a bill (H Sub SB 62) that would amend existing law to allow health care providers, including pharmacists, to refuse to prescribe or administer drugs they "reasonably believe" could end a pregnancy, the Kansas City Star reports (Cooper, Kansas City Star, 5/2).

Legislators approved the bill in a 23-16 vote, sending it to Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who is expected to sign it into law. If signed, the measure would take effect on July 1.

Supporters of the bill 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, physicians offices and other non-hospital facilities. In addition, it would expand the protections to include referring patients for services and providing prescriptions, according to the AP/Kansas City Star.

Opponents of the legislation noted that patients would not know a provider's position until they are refused treatment and that the provider would not be required to refer them elsewhere. 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 (AP/Kansas City Star, 5/2).

Sen. Tim Owens (R) said, "This bill carries with it opportunities for unintended consequences where a person with medical skills and training could be in a situation to deny help resulting in the death of a mother," adding, "I do not accept that as a pro-life choice" (Kansas City Star, 5/2).

Kansans for Life, which supports the measure, has said it is broad enough to apply to birth control. Kathy Ostrowski, the group's legislative director, said it would not prevent lifesaving care and that only a few providers would refuse to provide access to birth control (AP/Kansas City Star, 5/2).