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).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership