FRANKFORT — Four measures that would strengthen the state's abortion laws died in the House Health and Welfare Committee on Thursday.
Anti-abortion advocates say the Democratic-controlled House is not giving the abortion bills — which traditionally pass the Republican-controlled Senate and die in the House — a fair hearing. The measures were defeated along party lines with Democrats voting against the bills and Republicans voting in favor of them.
The Rev. Patrick Delahanty of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky said the bills are sent to the Health and Welfare Committee because the panel includes 10 Democrats and six Republicans. Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, is one of the most liberal-leaning members of the legislature.
"It's a sham," Delahanty said of the hearings. "The committee makeup is planned."
The bills that were defeated on Thursday included House Bill 215 and House Bill 390, which would have prohibited an abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of emergency.
House Bill 374 would have required a person seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor. House Bill 243 would have stopped a minor from another state from petitioning a court to receive an abortion if she does not have the permission of a parent.
Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said before voting on one of the bills that he felt the measures were not being taken seriously.
"This bill will never pass this committee," Moore said. "I know of no other bill that is prejudged in a like manner."
Burch said that he thought the bills were given a hearing and that it was anti-abortion legislators such as Republican Rep. David Floyd — the sponsor of three of the abortion bills — who were trying to derail public debate on other issues by attaching amendments that contain the abortion proposals to unrelated bills.
"He had three bills, and he didn't have the guts to show up to defend his bills," Burch said of Floyd after the hearing. Floyd did not attend the meeting.
Floyd said some of the bills dealing with abortion should be referred to other committees, such as the Judiciary Committee.
"They devise the committee specifically to kill any pro-life bill," Floyd said of the health panel.
Floyd has added abortion measures as amendments to at least four bills. He added the language of Senate Bill 9, which would require a woman to view an ultrasound before receiving an abortion, to House Bill 210, a bill dealing with transportation, and House Bill 323, a bill dealing with child-care facilities.
To avoid taking politically dangerous votes, House leaders have been reluctant to consider bills that contain abortion-related amendments in years' past. But Floyd said he is not trying to kill the other bills.
"All they have to do is call the bill" for a vote, he said.
If the full House could vote on an abortion bill, Floyd said, he thinks more than 60 members would vote to pass the measure.