The Kansas State Senate voted 23-16 on Wednesday to pass a broad bill that gives pharmacists the right to deny women any drug that the pharmacist believes can cause an abortion. The bill extends “conscience” protections to non-hospital facilities, including clinics and doctors’ offices. Supporters of the bill claim it protects pharmacists from being sued for following their consciences.

The bill gives pharmacists and doctors broad power to deny any drugs that they “reasonably believe” could end a pregnancy. Lawmakers and advocates in Kansas have expressed concern that this refusal measure could lead to the denial of lifesaving treatment for women, including chemotherapy. Republican state senator Tim Owens 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. I do not accept that as a pro-life choice.” Others have called it an attack on birth control because it gives pharmacists the right to deny any medication based on “moral objections.”

The bill now goes to Governor Sam Brownback to be signed. Governor Brownback is an outspoken opponent of abortion. If the bill becomes law, Kansas will be the fifth state to allow pharmacists the right to deny medication based on a conscience clause. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota all have similar laws. Florida, Maine, and Tennessee also have refusal measures, but these do not specifically mention pharmacists.

Kansas City Star 5/2/12; Associated Press 5/2/12; Coshocton Tribune 5/2/12

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