Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) signed a bill yesterday that will allow pharmacists in the state to refuse to fill a prescription they think could be used to induce abortion. But since the “conscience” measure says they cannot be required to provide a drug or devise that they think “may result in the termination of a pregnancy” — but does not define which drug in particular — the law’s opponents say it could allow a pharmacist to interferewith a woman’s health care by refusing to distribute birth control or emergency contraception.
Women who already have difficulty obtaining contraception may face additional hurdles, according to Julie Burkhart, founder of an abortion-rights group in Wichita, Kansas:
Burkhart said the law could create a hardship for women in small towns with a sole pharmacist who may refuse to fill certain prescriptions. In larger cities, women will have to make sure they go to a cooperative pharmacist, she added.
“Women should not have to go armed with a lot of research when looking for a physician or pharmacist in the community,” Burkhart said.
No pharmacist could be fired for refusing to fill such prescriptions, and doctors can refuse to refer patients to pharmacists who would fill a birth control prescription. Additionally, the Associated Press had reported that the law could “allow a doctor to refuse to provide chemotherapy to a pregnant cancer patient because it might end her pregnancy.”
Brownback’s office justified his signing by saying the bill “gives more legal protection to Kansas health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions” based on their conscience. Kansas already had a law that allowed medical professionals to refuse to assist in abortion procedures.
While Kansas lawmakers failed to pass a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would have required doctors to give false information to their patients, the expanded “conscience” law is just one of several laws recently approved in the state that undermine women’s health and well being.