Politics & Government

Senate set to move quickly on House changes to its ‘informed consent’ abortion bill

Senate President Robert Stivers said SB 1 will return education to educators on the senate floor Wednesday January 6, 2016.
Senate President Robert Stivers said SB 1 will return education to educators on the senate floor Wednesday January 6, 2016. jbrammer@herald-leader.com

The state Senate put on a fast track Friday a controversial anti-abortion bill that the House rewrote Thursday.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he expects the full Senate will vote Monday to concur with the House’s changes to a Senate bill that originally required women to have a face-to-face medical consultation at least 24 hours before an abortion.

The House amended Senate Bill 4 to let women choose between a face-to-face meeting and a live video chat.

If the Senate accepts the amended bill, the measure would be the first this legislative session that lawmakers have sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his consideration.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said Senate approval of the amended bill would be “a major victory for the unborn in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

That comment moved many senators to stand and applaud.

Thayer said the Senate has been working on the legislation for 12 years.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he was pleased that the Senate plans to move quickly on the so-called “informed consent” bill.

Asked why the House has not dealt with the issue in previous sessions, Stumbo said “no one had talked about televideoing before. That addition makes it a good bill.”

Stivers said he was surprised the House took up the vote but there is much “political pressure” on House Democratic leadership to address conservative issues. Democrats now hold only a 50-46 margin in the House. Republicans control the Senate.

The legislature passed an informed-consent law in the 1990s requiring that women who seek abortions first must be told of the medical risks and benefits of the procedure. Supporters of the law said they intended for that counseling to take place in person, between a doctor and his patient in the same room. But the final language was not that specific, and counseling by telephone, sometimes with a recorded message, has become common practice.

On Thursday, the Reproductive Freedom Project at the Kentucky ACLU issued a statement criticizing the amended bill.

“Senate Bill 4, despite language added in committee, remains an attempt by legislators to interfere with patients and the care they deserve from medical care providers, masquerading itself as a bill that helps women,” the group said.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics