Politics & Government

Kentucky Senate to get ‘informed consent’ abortion bill

The Kentucky Capitol.
The Kentucky Capitol. File Photo

Women getting an abortion in Kentucky would have to visit the clinic twice in 24 hours, including a face-to-face meeting in advance of the procedure for “informed consent,” under a bill headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection voted 8 to 1 Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 4.

“This is a solid bill that does much to move not only the health care but the wellness of women out of the restrictive column and into the priority status which we so richly deserve,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

Under Kentucky law, women seeking an abortion must be told at least 24 hours in advance about the procedure and its risks; the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus; the child-support obligations of the men who impregnated them; and the names of agencies willing to assist them through childbirth if they opt not to have an abortion.

Women frequently choose to hear this information by telephone rather than drive twice in 24 hours to one of the state’s two clinics that provide abortions, in Lexington and Louisville. For many years, the Republican-led Senate has passed legislation to require that consent be provided in face-to-face meetings in the same room. But the Democratic-led House has blocked it.

Derek Selznick, director of the Kentucky ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told the Senate committee that there is no legitimate medical reason to require a face-to-face meeting for women, given how many other medical consultations are provided by telephone or computer.

Rather, Selznick said, the bill would create an unfair burden for women — especially those who live in remote rural counties — by forcing them to take time off work and drive into Lexington or Louisville on two consecutive days, adding an “out-of-pocket cost” of hundreds of dollars.

After the committee hearing, Selznick said he’s confident that the House will block the bill, as it has in past years, along with most other abortion restrictions approved by the Senate. But that might not be correct. House Speaker Greg Stumbo later told reporters that he’s hearing more House members say the original intent of the law was to require face-to-face counseling.

“There’s a lot of talk about that bill,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who leads a shrinking Democratic majority. “I hear more people talk about it on this side than I used to. I hear favorable comments about it.”

House Health and Welfare Chairman Tom Burch, whose committee has voted against similar abortion restrictions in the past, said he can’t make any predictions this winter.

“You know, we have members change every two years, and thoughts change on the issues every two years,” said Burch, D-Louisville. “So I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I can tell you I don’t know why we need this bill, myself. Republicans are supposed to be the party of small government, but this is a bill that gets inside a woman’s doctor’s appointments.”

John Cheves: 859-231-3266, @BGPolitics