Kansas Advances “Conscience” Bill To Let Pharmacists Refuse You Morning-After Pill

The Kansas state legislature advanced a so-called “conscience” bill yesterday that will make it easier for health care providers to refuse to provide women’s health services that they personally find morally objectionable. According to the Kansas City Star, a doctor could refuse to give chemotherapy to a pregnant woman with cancer because the fetus might be harmed by the chemicals; a pharmacist could refuse to dispense the morning after pill, the abortion pill, and possibly even birth control. Anti-abortion folks in the medical profession claim they should not have to go against their conscience even if it means providing the medical services for which their customers depend on them. But women’s health supporters say it’s all part of a larger attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

The Kansas bill gives further protection to pharmacists who refuse to dispense medication and are sued or lose their jobs for doing so. It also protects employees of clinics and doctors’ offices from participating in abortions or providing referrals. Specifically, anti-abortion pharmacists say they should not have to dispense the morning-after pill, which they believe is an abortofacient, or the abortion pill. However, the wording of the law says it protects a person or institution who “reasonably believes” a pregnancy will be ended. In other words, a doctor or pharmacist could say, “Nope, I’m not prescribing or dispensing you birth control, because I’m Catholic/anti-birth control/not in the mood today.” And you could do nothing about it, except shake your fist at the sky for all the time you’ve just wasted and then go find another doctor or pharmacist.

It makes me wonder why would any clinic, doctor’s office or pharmacy hire someone who is going to send customers elsewhere? Because that’s exactly what “conscience” clauses force women to do — which is another reason that women’s health supporters oppose them. Restricting access to contraception/abortion in these ways only gives women more hoops to jump through, which is particularly tragic in rural areas of the country where the next pharmacy could be a half-day’s drive away. Some women need life-saving care and if her pharmacist refuses to dispense it, she will go elsewhere. That’s terribly unjust.  

The bill is now headed to Republican Governor Sam Brownbrack, who is expected to sign it; it will go into effect July 1.



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