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Columbia Missourian

Missouri House OKs amendment to let pharmacies refuse contraception pills

By Sarah D. Wire
April 28, 2009 | 7:48 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY – The House has approved an amendment to keep pharmacies from being required to distribute emergency contraception and other drugs.

The chamber approved the amendment 115-43 Tuesday but delayed a vote on the entire bill. The bill allows certain state boards to hold disciplinary hearings for people who are licensed by the state and are convicted of certain felonies.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, states that a pharmacy can't be sued for not carrying medication and that the state cannot revoke a license if a pharmacy does not carry certain medication. It specifically mentions Plan B, an emergency contraception drug that can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, and RU-486, the drug used to induce an abortion.

According to the Federal Drug Administration, emergency contraception drugs cannot cause an abortion. Women over 17 no longer need a prescription to obtain Plan B.

Women can take RU-486 to abort a pregnancy if they take it within 49 days of conception. The drug is only available through a doctor and cannot be distributed by a pharmacy.

The amendment is similar to "conscience legislation" passed in other states that protects pharmacists who object to dispensing birth control medication. In recent years, Missouri lawmakers have attempted to pass bills both protecting pharmacists and bills requiring them to fill all prescriptions.

Democrats said the amendment is an attempt to control women's bodies.

"To implement a law like this, especially in a rural area, seems to me to put another road block before women," said Rep. Mary Still, D- Columbia. "This is one more weapon of mass distraction that we see at a time where we should be paying attention to the real issues of the state."

Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, argued that businesses owners should have the right to choose what products they carry. She said the amendment will protect businesses from lawsuits.

"I have trouble understanding why anybody who is an American, who is not in favor of Communism, would want us to dictate what we're going to say people can and cannot stock," Davis said. "I fear for all the businesses in Missouri if we're going to start telling them what they can sell and what they cannot sell."