Sponsors split abortion measures in hopes of passage

Panel approves More restrictions

Associated PressJanuary 27, 2012 

Abortion Ultrasound

Kentucky Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, talks with a staff member on the Senate floor Thursday Jan. 26, 2012, at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Photo/John Flavell)

JOHN FLAVELL — AP

FRANKFORT — A Senate committee approved two bills Thursday that would place more restrictions on women seeking abortions.

Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, who is chairman of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, said he hoped the bills would reduce the number of abortions in Kentucky.

One bill would require women to have ultrasounds before abortions. The other would clarify existing law by requiring women to have face-to-face consultations with a physician, licensed nurse, physician's assistant or physician-delegated social worker before having an abortion.

Sen. Perry Clark, D-Louisville, said similar proposals have been included in a single bill in previous years, but the sponsors were politicizing the issue by dividing them into separate measures this year.

"The potential for getting it passed in the House is stronger if they are bifurcated," said Westwood, a co-sponsor of both.

Sen. Kathy Stein, a Democrat from Lexington, said she thought the measures were not intended to help women who find themselves in difficult situations.

"I fear they're both being used as roadblocks," she said.

Westwood admitted he wanted to "eliminate as many abortions as possible."

"To me, it's not a political issue, it's a moral issue," he said.

Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican, said that "informed consent" was already the law, but it was being misinterpreted to allow women to listen to a pre-recorded message by phone instead of talking to a doctor.

That prevents many women from getting printed materials 24 hours before an abortion that show the development of a fetus and provide information about resources available to them, he said.

Wilson's bill would clarify the law by defining "individual private setting" as being in the same room with the doctor or other medical provider for counseling.

The informed consent bill was approved by the legislature in 1998.

The ultrasound bill also has been proposed for several years and has been approved by the Republican-led Senate, but it has failed in the House, which is led by Democrats.

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