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Anti-abortion amendments stall bills

FRANKFORT — Two House Republicans are attaching an anti-abortion amendment to unrelated bills awaiting a House vote, potentially dooming measures that would offer better security for social workers and cut premiums for some children's Medicaid coverage, among other things.

The controversial amendments, sponsored by Reps. David Floyd of Bardstown and Tim Moore of Elizabethtown, had stalled at least six bills as of Tuesday evening, when Moore backed down and removed an amendment from a measure that would provide money for colon cancer screenings.

"I find it sadly ironic that the same voices that want to protect unborn children are willing to put children at risk after they are born," said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, an advocacy group that supports several of the child-welfare bills at risk.

The bills' House backers said Floyd and Moore risk derailing the legislative process for proposals that everyone thinks are a good idea. Even some anti-abortion activists in Frankfort distanced themselves from the maneuver, calling it an unwise strategy.

"These amendments are not something that we would be endorsing," said Robert Castagna, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

House Democratic leaders want to avoid a series of floor fights over the amendments, which call for doctors to perform ultrasounds on women seeking abortions and offer to show them the images. They also would require counseling for women before abortions.

To avoid the fights, House Democratic leaders are removing bills from the floor agenda and returning them to committee when the amendments are filed. That leaves them in limbo as the legislative session nears its final quarter.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Tuesday he didn't know how the conflict would end.

"I'm not the one filing the amendments," Stumbo said.

Floyd, the House minority whip, said he refuses to take the blame if Democratic leaders kill the bills rather than allow action on his amendments. If House members were allowed to vote, the amendments would pass by a five-to-one margin, Floyd said.

"Mine is a pro-woman amendment that provides better information for an informed choice prior to a medical procedure. Those who oppose it fear that it will result in a decision to not abort," Floyd said.

Floyd's House Bill 373 contained the same language as the amendments. It failed to get out of the House Health and Welfare Committee after a February hearing.

House Health and Welfare Chairman Tom Burch, sponsor of several of the stalled bills, said he's angry that Floyd and Moore are holding unrelated legislation hostage.

"I gave those people a fair hearing in my committee. They had 35 minutes to talk about ultrasounds and all the rest," said Burch, D-Louisville. "But they did not lobby for the bill properly, and they did not have the votes necessary in committee, and that's how democracy works."

"Why should a social worker protection bill get blocked by the abortion debate? It makes no sense," Burch said.