Kentucky House Passes Pro-Life Bill to Help Women Find Better Alternatives to Abortion

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Feb 1, 2016   |   7:18PM   |   Frankfort, KY

In a long-awaited victory, the Kentucky House passed a bill Thursday to ensure women receive information about the alternatives to abortion from a doctor at least 24 hours before having an abortion.

Kentucky Senate Bill 4 would amend the state’s informed consent law to require either an in-person or a real-time video consultation between a doctor and woman at least 24 hours before having an abortion, according to the Associated Press. During the meeting, the woman would be informed about the risks of abortion, the age of her unborn baby and the support available to her if she chose childbirth.

“It’s a historic day for us to be able to pass this legislation,” House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said after the vote Thursday.

In the past few years, pro-life legislators have struggled to pass pro-life bills through the Democrat-controlled state House. The new bill seems likely to pass; however, it did not come without compromise. The state House amended the bill passed in the Kentucky Senate earlier this month. In a compromise between House Republicans and Democrats, the parties agreed to amend the bill to allow the consultations to take place on real-time video, the report states.

The report continues:

The House version allows a doctor to designate a licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker to represent him or her at the in-person or video consultations.

The Senate supports allowing those others to represent a doctor at in-person meetings.

The House vote came after a closed-door meeting among House Democrats, followed by a hastily convened committee meeting to take up the informed consent bill and send it to the floor.

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House Republican objected to the rushed nature of the committee action to amend the bill, but later accepted the real-time video conferencing option.

“Given today’s technology, I think that’s an acceptable compromise under today’s political climate,” said Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington. He said the bill was “a huge win for the unborn.”

The vote came at a time when Democrats are fighting to maintain their historic control of the House.

Democrats are clinging to a 50-46 House majority, with four special elections looming in March that could determine who controls the chamber. Amid that uncertainty, Stumbo had previously said the informed consent bill had a better chance of passing this year.

Kentucky state Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican who is the sponsor of the bill, previously said that face-to-face medical consultations prior to a surgical procedure are standard medical practice – “and Kentucky women deserve no less.”

“This is a solid bill that does much to move not only the healthcare but the wellness of women out of the restricted column and into priority status, which we so rightly deserve,” Adams said.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, called the video conferencing amendment a “remedy” that would allow women to receive information without creating an additional financial burden by requiring them to travel to an abortion clinic twice, according to a state House press release.

“If you believe that (the informed consent law) hasn’t been adhered to because … information is given electronically via telephone… then this is the way to remedy that, and it’s a way to remedy it in a manner that’s fair to people that live all across Kentucky,” said Stumbo.

Currently in Kentucky, an abortionist, licensed nurse, abortionist’s assistant or a social worker must verbally inform the woman of the medical risks and abortion alternatives at least 24-hours before an abortion; however, the law does not specify that the information be given in a face-to face meeting. In the past, the information has even been relayed via telephone call.

The bill will return to the Republican-controlled state Senate for a vote. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is pro-life.