Senate piles on low-income women

Piling a new burden on Kentucky’s low-income women is not just bad policy it’s downright mean.

Yet, the Republican-controlled Senate, in an annual rite, has approved an added burden on women exercising their right to a safe, legal abortion.

Foes of reproductive freedom gussy up this insult to Kentuckians’ intelligence by insisting that they want only to protect women from making uninformed decisions.

During Tuesday’s debate, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, asserted that watching “body language” during a face-to-face meeting 24 hours before an abortion would somehow be more enlightening than hearing the same state-mandated briefing over the telephone as now required.

News flash: The women who come from all over Kentucky to clinics in Lexington and Louisville have made informed decisions.

They have made decisions informed by their circumstances and future prospects. Who is better informed about what’s best for a woman and her family? The woman and her family? Or sanctimonious lawmakers who vow to get government off our backs but quiver in fear of being marked down on a Right to Life voter guide?

The real purpose of this legislation is to make women feel ashamed, a goal shared by the protesters who gather outside abortion clinics and shout and wave colorized photographs of fetuses.

Kentucky’s teen pregnancy rate is declining. And the rate of abortion in Kentucky is down by more than half since 1991. Still, almost 4,000 women received abortions in Kentucky in 2011.

Though the trend in medicine (and just about everything else) is toward distance technologies and consultations, the Kentucky Senate wants to reverse that trend for one particular group of patients and medical professionals. Senate Bill 4, which was approved 32 to 5, requires a “face-to-face” meeting in the “same room” with a medical professional or social worker at least 24 hours before an abortion, a procedure that is available in Kentucky only in Lexington and Louisville.

The practical implication: an additional required visit to the clinic for a briefing that is now delivered by phone, multiplying the expense and time. Medicaid and many private health insurance policies do not cover abortion. One effect of adding expense and difficulty is moving abortions later in pregnancy.

The wives and daughters of lawmakers would not be greatly inconvenienced even if a new requirement increased the cost of abortions. SB 4 would work a far greater hardship on the Kentuckians who can least afford to take time away from their jobs or school, especially those who live in rural areas farther from the two cities. That income-based injustice makes this legislation deeply offensive.

The Democratic-controlled House has courageously blocked this unfair legislation in the past. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo is intimating that this time might be different.

Kentucky Democrats should think about how trying to be more like Republicans has worked for them in recent elections. But, far more important, they should stand up for what is right by killing this unjust, insulting bill.

In the Senate, six Democrats (including Julian Carroll of Frankfort) joined 26 Republicans (Brandon Smith, R-Hazard passed) to approve SB 4.

Thanks to the five Senate Democrats, including Reggie Thomas of Lexington, who stood up for the rights of Kentucky women by voting no.