Since Gov. Matt Bevin and the General Assembly seem set on devoting their time to controlling female fertility, let’s review some actual information.
In 2010, 47 percent of pregnancies in Kentucky were unplanned, about the same as in the U.S. The birth rate among teenagers 15 to 19 has been steadily declining but in 2013 it stood at 39.5 per 1,000 in Kentucky, 26.5 nationwide.
Abortion is declining, too. The number in Kentucky fell 12.4 percent from 2010 to 2014, about the same as the nation.
Abortions have declined both in states that have passed laws making it more difficult to obtain an abortion — which is legal in the U.S. — and those that haven’t.
People who study these trends associate the decline with increased access to birth control and family-planning information among young and poor women. This makes sense: Planned pregnancies are less likely to end in abortion.
So, lawmakers and a governor who want to prevent abortion in a state with a high poverty rate and a teen pregnancy rate above that of the nation would reasonably promote access to family planning information and birth control.
Instead, based on discredited, doctored videos, lawmakers launched an assault on Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of Kentucky reproductive health services, including birth control.
A group with the imaginative name of Center for Medical Progress tried to entrap Planned Parenthood officials, posing as representatives of a company looking for fetal tissue to conduct medical research. They secretly taped meetings and then released heavily edited recordings to suggest that Planned Parenthood sells fetal material for a profit, which is illegal.
Planned Parenthood has undergone a congressional investigation and at least 12 state inquiries as a result of the tapes and none has found any wrongdoing. Most recently, a grand jury in Texas cleared Planned Parenthood but indicted two of the people who made the videos.
Despite this, Kentucky lawmakers are citing the videos to support convoluted legislation aimed at reducing funding for Planned Parenthood’s reproductive health services.
Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, a sponsor of Senate Bill 7, told CN/2, “there’s no doctoring or editing to those at all,” referring to the videos, while Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, called them, “pretty damning evidence.”
This ill-advised legislation would not reduce the number of abortion providers in Kentucky — since no public funds pay for abortions anyway.
But by punishing Planned Parenthood, the law would likely make it harder for women, especially poor women, to get birth control, very possibly increasing the demand for abortions.
Another bit of unproductive legislation is Senate Bill 4, the so-called informed consent bill. Originally it required women seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a physician 24 hours before the procedure.
With abortions available only in Louisville and Lexington, this meant women from rural areas would have the added expense and inconvienence of being away from home, work and family for an extra day.
The House made it less onerous with an amendment to allow video, rather than face-to-face, consultation. That version is likely to pass the Senate Monday.
It is still an intrusive bill that substitutes the judgment of the General Assembly for that of adult women.
One of only three representatives voting nay, Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, (the others were Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, and Joni Jenkins D-Shively) called it “purely political.”
Legislators don’t want a black mark from pro-life groups and so women suffer, and with them the rest of the state. “The people who profess to be pro-life,” would be more credible, Marzian said, if they were pushing for better and more access to birth control and age appropriate sex education.