A new law which will allow pharmacists to refuse to provide abortion-causing drugs has been signed into law in the US state of Kansas.
The Heath Care Rights of Conscience Act will bar anyone from being required to prescribe or administer a drug they "reasonably believe" might result in the termination of a pregnancy. The law was signed on Monday, the Kansas City Star news website reports.
Supporters of the bill said it was a minor amendment to 1969 Kansas law that said no one should be required to perform or participate in abortion procedures.
State Representative Lance Kinzer, a Republican, sponsored the legislation and said it was intended to cover the abortion-causing drugs such as RU-486, rather than contraceptive medications.
To be protected under the law, he said, a pharmacist would need "reasonable medical basis" to believe the drug would cause an abortion.
If someone was fired or sued for refusing to provide a drug, he said, he or she could then litigate whether there was a basis for believing the drug would cause an abortion.
He said the conscience protection would apply to any drug that would cause harm to an embryo after it is fertilised.
Conscience clauses have been around for more than 40 years following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 that legalised abortion.
Since 1970, Kansas has had a law that said no one should be required to perform or participate in an abortion procedure.
But in recent years across the country, the issue has moved to abortion-inducing drugs such as RU 486.
Four states — Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and South Dakota — have laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to fill an emergency prescription for contraceptives, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Three others — Florida, Maine and Tennessee — have broad refusal measures that don’t specifically mention pharmacists.
Last year, Republican governor Sam Brownback signed bills requiring new licensing criteria for abortion clinics and requiring parental consent for juveniles to get an abortion.
Governor Brownback also signed a bill banning insurance coverage of abortion and another one that tightened limits on late-term abortion.