Brownback Signs Law Allowing Expansive Refusal of Medication Based on “Belief” About Abortion


With the signing of a new expanded conscience clause bill in Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback has now legally blessed a virtually open-ended number of situations in which “religious” workers can refuse to assist women under the guise that they believe they “may be” terminating a pregnancy.

Advocates of the law argue that it “updates existing law.” But by changing the law to include refusal to administer any drug that they believe may terminate a pregnancy, it opens the door to refusal of birth control and emergency contraception — both of which many anti-choice medical workers and pharmacists erroneously charge end very early pregnancies rather than preventing conception. The law could also allow refusal of even more medically-necessary drugs simply because they may relate to abortions. 

Idaho already had a case of a pharmacist who refused to fill a perscription for a woman who needed drugs to stop bleeding, believing that the woman may have had an abortion which caused her blood loss, and the pharmacist received no punishment for the action.  How long will it take for that to become the rule, rather than the exception, as the Kansas law goes into effect?

“Assisting in terminating a pregnancy” has already become an overly expansive phrase that many anti-choice activists are applying to even more unrelated situations — from the nurses who refuse to do intake of women in the hospital for a termination to the bus driver who won’t drive a route to Planned Parenthood.

Creating a law that allows a person’s moral convictions — not science — to determine what is “terminating a pregnancy” is legislation begging for legal challenge.

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