Kentucky House Defeats Bill for Ultrasound Before Abortions

State   Steven Ertelt   Feb 24, 2011   |   6:30PM    Frankfort, KY

A Kentucky state House panel has defeated a bill the state Senate already approved that would allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of their baby before an abortion.

The House was the key concern for pro-life advocates because the Senate has twice before approved the legislation only to see the pro-life bill go down in the state House as a committee refused to hold a hearing or vote on the bill.

During the debate on the bill in the House Health and Welfare Committee, House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican, asked lawmakers to allow a vote on the bill in the full state House.

“For many legislators, it is the number one issue,” he said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I think this issue is so important.”

But the committee rejected Senate Bill 9 on a vote of 9-7.

The bill allows women a chance to see the ultrasound of their unborn child, which they are frequently not shown by an abortion center even though pre-abortion ultrasounds are routine. Abortion practitioners who violate the law and fail to show women the ultrasound would be fined up to $100,000 the first time and up to $250,000 the second time they broke the law.

The measure, which is similar to laws in other states, would expand the current informed consent statute on the books in Kentucky that has helped reduce the number of abortions in the state by providing women information on abortion risks and alternatives. Approved in 1998, the law requires abortion facilities to provide the information to women 24 hours in advance of the abortion.

Sen. Jack Westwood, a Republican, told legislators the bill would not ban abortions but he hoped would convince some women to find abortion alternatives.

Rep. Brent Housman, a Republican, testified for the bill, according to the newspaper and talked about seeing the ultrasound images of his own children.

“I vote strongly and emphatically for this bill,” he said, saying it would be worth it even if it “were to prevent one person from receiving an abortion.”

Rep. Tom Burch, the Louisville Democrat who is the committee’s chairman, spoke against the bill and said lawmakers shouldn’t make decisions for women.

After the Senate approved the bill, Mary Spaulding Balch, the attorney who oversees state legislation for National Right to Life, said she was delighted.

“What can be more informative than an ultrasound image of the mother’s own unborn child?, “Balch said. “It offers her a window to her womb and allows her the opportunity to see her child in real-time ultrasound. It offers her an opportunity to understand the consequences of her decision so that she might be spared regret. And it offers her the opportunity to choose life for her child.”

Balch said the bill is key in further reducing the number of abortions in Kentucky “because it goes far in protecting the mother from making an uninformed decision–one that has life and death consequences.”

Last year, the Kentucky Senate approved the same ultrasound bill, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Tori, a Republican, but it died in the state House.

Teresa Watson, executive director of the Pregnancy Resource Center, applauded that vote.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, this is something that will give her more information than she had before. She can see the reality of the child very simply on the screen and I believe she deserves to be able to see that,” she said according to WLKY.

“The most common remark we hear is, ‘I did not know.’ They did not know how far along, what their baby looked like at the gestation they were when they had the abortion,” Watson said of women who come to her center.

Shirley Jones of Planned Parenthood of Kentucky indicated the abortion business opposes the bill to help women get more information, but admitted that, “Offering that information is certainly something the physician and the patient will want to discuss.”

Also last year, the director of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, which does abortions in Louisville, admitted to WLKY that they do ultrasound scans before all abortions.

The 2009 version of the measure received Senate approval before dying in a House committee. The state Senate signed off on that bill on a 33-4 vote but the Kentucky House Health and Welfare Committee shot down the measure.

When used in pregnancy centers ultrasounds help more than 80 percent of women decide against an abortion and to keep their baby.