House committee defeats three bills aimed at limiting abortions in Kentucky

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 20, 2014 

Tom Burch, D-Louisville

FRANKFORT — The emotionally charged issue of abortion was debated for two hours Thursday in a House committee that eventually rejected three bills backed by the Kentucky Right to Life Association.

Margie Montgomery, executive director of the association, claimed that the House Health and Welfare Committee is "stacked against" opponents of abortion, which allows the 4,000 or so abortions each year in Kentucky to continue.

But Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, said if he were for abortion, he would not have 13 children, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Two of the three bills voted down — House Bill 575, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, and Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville — would require a doctor to present the results of an ultrasound to a pregnant woman prior to an abortion.

The other, Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, would require women who are considering an abortion to have a face-to-face consultation with a doctor or private health care professional 24 hours before the procedure. Now, doctors can provide information about the procedure through a recorded phone message.

None of the three bills garnered more than six "yes" votes in the 16-member committee, but all stirred passionate discussion.

Several opponents of the ultrasound bills said legislators should not tell doctors how to practice medicine. But House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, an Owensboro Democrat who is a co-sponsor of HB 575, said 24 other states offer such legislation and it does not require women to look at the ultrasound pictures as the doctor displays them.

Rep. David Watkins, a Henderson Democrat who is a doctor, said 99 percent of doctors already use ultrasounds before abortions.

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, voted against the bills, saying she was pro-choice. However, she said more efforts should be made to reduce unwanted pregnancies through sex education.

Some of the most heated comments involved Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, and Derek Selznick, reproductive freedom project director for the ACLU of Kentucky.

Selznick first mentioned how much several states have had to pay in legal fees to defend unconstitutional bills to restrict abortions. That prompted Moore to accuse the ACLU of trying to raise money by ignoring the rights of "human, unborn children."

Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, apologized to Selznick for "the interrogation" by several of the Republican committee members.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog:

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