FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to require doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions and to describe what is seen to the pregnant women.
Doctors failing to comply would face fines of up to $100,000 for a first offense and up to $250,000 for subsequent violations. The requirement would be added to Kentucky's existing informed-consent law.
"It's a life," said Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville, the bill's lead sponsor. "And if ever we're going to have all the information to make that best decision, this is the time to do that."
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said the bill reflected a "Scarlet Letter mentality" toward women.
"We don't have to have face-to-face meetings, we don't have to have ultrasounds ... to understand what it means to be pregnant," he said. "And what this bill does is try to deny a woman's constitutional right to have control over her own health-care decisions."
Senators voted 33-5 to send the measure to the House, where similar proposals have died in past years.
Asked later if he thinks the outcome might be different this time, Westerfield told reporters: "I've asked for people to pray to soften the hearts of those in the leadership in the House and the chairman of whichever committee it gets assigned to."
The measure would require a doctor performing an ultrasound to provide a "simultaneous explanation" of what is seen, including the location of the fetus in the uterus.
The ultrasound images would be displayed so the pregnant woman could view them. But she could choose to avert her eyes from the images without risk of penalty to the woman or the doctor.
Last month, the Senate passed another proposed update to the state's informed-consent law that would require face-to-face meetings between medical professionals and women seeking abortions. It would require women to receive the information and then wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion.
The bill's supporters say abortion providers have circumvented the law's intent by providing the information through recorded telephone messages. The bill has been referred to a House committee.
The ultrasound legislation is Senate Bill 8. The legislation requiring face-to-face meetings is Senate Bill 3.