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Abortion bill dies in committee

FRANKFORT — A legislative panel deadlocked Tuesday on a proposal to limit abortions, effectively killing the bill's chances of becoming law this year.

The House Health and Welfare Committee declined to send to the full House a bill that would require women to be presented with an ultrasound and have a face-to-face consultation with a physician before having an abortion.

The 8-8 vote came after passionate pleas from women who have had an abortion, but differ on Senate Bill 79.

Angela Minter, who supports the proposal, spoke calmly and deliberately to lawmakers about her regrets in getting two abortions as a teen.

"If I had had an ultrasound, that would have helped me in a tremendous way," said Minter, executive director of Sisters for Life, an anti-abortion group in Louisville.

Fran Ellers, also of Louisville, told the committee that she, too, had an abortion about 25 years ago but thinks women should have the right to choose.

"Women give this a great deal of thought," said Ellers, a former newspaper reporter who has written a book on reproductive rights. "I respectfully oppose this bill."

Advocates of the measure declined to declare it dead after Tuesday's hearing, saying they might consider various parliamentary moves to revive it.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said he thinks the full House would pass the measure if it got out of committee. The Senate has overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

"With God all things are possible," Moore said.

Opponents of the bill said it would cause unnecessary problems for a woman seeking an abortion.

Derek Selznick with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky called it "an intrusion into the doctor's office."

Others said the bill would create a hardship for women, especially those who live in rural areas far from the two abortion clinics in the state in Louisville and Lexington.

"This is very demeaning to women," said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville.

Meanwhile, proponents blamed committee chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, for the bill's demise.

"He did it by actively lobbying to bring the bill to his committee where he knew he could kill it," said David Edmunds of The Family Foundation of Kentucky.

Edmunds noted that House Democratic leadership last year sent the bill to the Judiciary Committee, where then-chair Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, "killed it."

"It appears this leadership has a new hatchet man in Tom Burch," he said.

Burch said he simply gave the bill a hearing and it did not garner enough votes to get out of committee.

Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, said he was torn by the vote, noting that another lawmaker had threatened to hold one of his bills hostage in another committee if he didn't support the proposal.

Meeks said he was not going to be held hostage and voted against the bill. He did not identify the other legislator.