Senate bill burdens women, doctors

Recently, the Kentucky Senate passed Senate Bill 9, which forces a woman seeking pregnancy termination in accordance with her rights as granted under the laws of our union, to undergo a real-time ultrasound of the fetus 24 hours prior to her procedure.

Additionally, the bill obligates the physician to "provide a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable." Failure to comply subjects the physician to the consequences associated with the commission of a felony and a fine not to exceed $250,000.

In no other realm of medical or surgical practice is there this level of legislative intervention. Identical bills had passed the Senate in previous years and were appropriately defeated in House committee.

Under current Kentucky law, a woman seeking to terminate must listen by phone or in person to a description of the procedure and answer questions that confirm her understanding of the termination. She is given the opportunity and encouraged at that time to ask questions. Immediately prior to her procedure, another opportunity is afforded the patient to address any uncertainties that may remain.

The vast majority of women opting to terminate a pregnancy do not enter into such a decision without considerable and torturous anxiety and forethought. They are well aware of the gravity of the decision they are making.

One must therefore ask, what is the principle motivation of the proponents? Will a brief refresher course in developmental biology delivered 24 hours before removal of gestational tissue assist the patient in making a more "informed" choice?

The true injustice of this bill is that it would inflict the most punishing impact on Kentucky's poorest women, those without resources to afford an additional 24 hours of mandated process. To them, it simply translates into lost wages, additional child care, lodging and expenses associated with an overnight stay or duplicated travel.

Additionally, the bill does not require that the baby's father view the ultrasound and hear details of the formation of the fetus. Is it fair that only the female be forced to endure this educational process?

The intent of SB 9 is clear: to instill guilt at a time of maximum vulnerability to result in a change of heart and a cancellation of the procedure. Were this bill to become law, physicians would not have the option to apply common sense and empathy in such situations without risking their medical license and sustaining crippling fines; they would be forced to subject their patients to the effects of a misguided legislative dictum. Clearly, the privacy and rights accorded the patient-doctor relationship are at stake here.

If supporters of this bill sincerely are interested in educating women on the reproductive aspects of their lives, their efforts would be far better spent mandating science-based sex education before our citizens become sexually active, not after they have become pregnant.

It is my hope that citizens demand their legislators acknowledge the farce of SB 9, as did Sen. Kathy Stein and Rep. Susan Westrom, and propose legislation that accurately reflects their intended purpose — to limit abortion.

It is time to come clean and to stop insulting the integrity of the women of Kentucky.