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Kansas governor signs bill allowing pharmacists to refuse abortion drugs

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback [official website] has signed a bill [SB 62 materials] allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs that they "reasonably believe" might result in the termination of a pregnancy, his office announced [press release] Monday. Critics of the legislation claim that it will allow pharmacists to refuse to distribute emergency contraception [Kansas City Star report], but supporters claim that the bill was aimed at the abortion drug RU-486 and is only a narrow amendment to a 1969 Kansas law which says that no one should be required to participate in performing an abortion procedure. Four states—Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota—have laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraceptives, and three others—Florida, Maine and Tennessee—have refusal measures that do not specifically mention pharmacists. The law will take effect in July.

Kansas has been at the forefront of the abortion debate, passing several piece of recent legislation restricting access to the procedure. Last year, Brownback signed [JURIST report] the Abortion Reporting Accuracy and Parental Rights Act [HB 2035 materials], which requires unemancipated minors to obtain notarized parental signatures before an abortion may be performed, and the "fetal pain bill" [HB 2218 materials], which restricts abortions beyond 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the belief that a fetus can feel pain at that stage of gestation. He has also signed bills banning insurance coverage [HB 2075 materials] for abortions and requiring new licensing criteria [SB 36 materials] for abortion clinics. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed suit challenging the insurance law last August, but a federal judge refused to block it [JURIST reports]. Last July a judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the licensing requirements [JURIST report].

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