Is the Morning-After Pill a Thing of the Past in Kansas?

Pharmacists in the state of Kansas may now be able to refuse filling prescriptions for emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, if they think the prescription might lead to an abortion.

To understand why emergency contraception options might quickly become limited for some women, you should first understand the history of these laws and how the morning-after pill actually works.

The History

The state of Kansas has had a law in place since 1970 that states no person should be required to perform an abortion or be part of an abortion procedure. The United States Supreme Court then made a decision in 1973 to legalize abortion, which opened the door for conscience clauses to develop. A conscience clause is a clause within a law that exempts individuals from performing acts that violate their moral or religious beliefs.

Conscience bills are already in place in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota which let pharmacists decide against filling emergency prescriptions for birth control.

The Health Care Rights of Conscience Act

The state of Kansas has joined the ranks of states with similar conscience clauses after the Kansas governor Sam Brownback signed the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act. This act gives pharmacists the right to refuse to fill prescriptions for drugs they have reason to believe will result in an abortion.

This law is the latest bill the governor has signed restricting abortion rights for Kansas residents. Brownback has also implemented new licensing requirements for clinics that perform abortions, and juveniles in Kansas wishing to get an abortion must now have parental consent to do so.

The Controversy

While abortion itself remains a controversial topic, the new Kansas law brings to the table the possibility of tighter restrictions that the stated intent behind the bill. At the heart of the discussion are emergency birth control prescriptions for the morning-after pill. This bill has the potential to deny women the right to emergency contraception depending on whether individual pharmacists associate emergency contraception with abortion.

How Emergency Contraception Works

There are three morning-after pills currently available in the United States: Plan B, Ella and Next Choice. Each of these emergency contraception pills work by delaying the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary and effectively preventing the egg from every being fertilized. Emergency contraception can also stop fertilized eggs from attaching to the uterus wall. This property of emergency contraception opens the door for pharmacists to interpret the pills as contributing to abortions, thereby allowing pharmacists to deny filling prescriptions for these medications if they cannot in good conscience support them.

If you live in Kansas, your best option for contraception is to follow birth control methods that work before or during sex. If you find yourself in a situation where you need emergency contraception, call ahead to make sure the pharmacist will fill your prescription so you won’t have to run all over town searching for help.

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