JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House has endorsed a measure specifically allowing pharmacies to decide whether to stock the "morning-after" emergency contraceptive or abortion pills.
The House voted 115-43 on Tuesday to amend the provisions to professional licensing legislation that already cleared the Senate. But the House quit for the day before taking a vote on the overall bill.
Missouri's pharmacy licensing laws currently don't address whether pharmacies must carry emergency contraceptives or abortion drugs.
Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said his amendment would add protection for pharmacy owners who object to stocking the drugs.
Emery's measure would bar lawsuits or prosecutions against pharmacies that refuse to provide the abortion drug known as RU-486 or the emergency contraception sold as Plan B. Pharmacies would not need to advise people how to get the medications.
RU-486 causes a medical abortion, while the morning-after pill is essentially a superdose of standard birth control taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
Emery likened requiring pharmacies to carry contraception medications to a hypothetical state mandate on the types of cases a law firm must accept.
Other Republican supporters said lawmakers shouldn't be involved in telling private businesses what they must sell.
"I just 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," said Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon.
Some Democrats argued that Emery's amendment could make it harder for women — particularly those living in rural areas — to get access to emergency contraception.
Rep. Beth Low, D-Kansas City, said restricting access to emergency contraception could increase the number of abortions.
Missouri lawmakers have debated possible regulations of contraception for the past several years.