Ky. House committee rejects abortion bills Senate had approved

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comFebruary 28, 2013 

FRANKFORT — A House panel defeated several bills Thursday that would put restrictions on abortions, including one bill that would require a woman to view an ultrasound and another that would require a face-to-face consultation before receiving an abortion.

The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 8-7 — with Democrats voting against and Republicans voting for — on six abortion-related bills. Among those was Senate Bill 4, which would require a woman to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor or a designee before receiving an abortion; and Senate Bill 5, which would require an ultrasound before an abortion.

Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 5 have been passed by the Republican-controlled Senate for several years but have never cleared the Democrat-controlled House. Anti-abortion activists emphasized Thursday that SB 4 and SB 5 would give women the information they need before agreeing to a medical procedure.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said SB 4 would align abortions with the same standard of care as other medical procedures. There is no other procedure that allows a woman to listen to a pre-recorded message and that is considered informed consent.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said that as a health care lawyer, he has advised medical professionals on what is informed consent. In Kentucky law, there is one standard for abortions and another standard for all other medical procedures, Benvenuti said.

"Regardless of what your position is, ... whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, the bottom line is everybody deserves to be properly informed," Benvenuti said.

But Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said the law regarding informed consent for abortions was drafted by the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board, not the legislature.

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, said SB 5 was similar to SB 4. An ultrasound should be required before an abortion for medical reasons, Hornback said. Hornback is the sponsor of SB 5.

Several doctors testified Thursday that an ultrasound would be helpful to a doctor performing an abortion and would provide needed medical information.

But Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has recommended ultrasounds only in cases where it is medically necessary. Flood voted against the bill.

The House Democrats also voted against House Bill 23, which would prohibit insurance plans on the health benefit exchange to pay for abortions. Gov. Beshear's administration has maintained that the health benefit exchange would not allow for coverage of abortions. Also defeated was House Bill 251, which would require doctors who work in abortion clinics to have local hospital privileges and be board certified; House Bill 132, which would prohibit abortions if a fetal heart beat is detected; and House Bill 412, which would ban abortions earlier than 20 weeks, among other things.

Beth Musgrave: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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