Kentucky House panel halts 3 abortion access bills

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Associated Press

Posted on March 21, 2014 at 10:02 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky House panel has halted three Republican-sponsored bills that would regulate abortion access statewide.

Two of the measures would have required a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, without exemption for rape or incest victims. The doctor would be required to perform the ultrasound on the woman, display the image to her, and then offer her a copy of the ultrasound photo. Both measures include language specifically allowing the woman to turn her eyes away from the ultrasound images. Doctors who refused to take these actions would be fined $100,000 for the first offense, and $250,000 for each additional offense.

The third bill would have required a woman to be physically present during a consultation with an abortion provider instead of consulting over the phone. Proponents say that this is so a patient may receive an informational pamphlet and speak with a physician face-to-face. Critics of the measure say that, because Kentucky only has two operational clinics located in the Lexington and Louisville, women in Kentucky's poorest regions would be disproportionately affected by the measure, which could require them to make two separate trips across the state.

Testifying on behalf of the bills were Republican bill sponsors Reps. Gerald Watkins and Tommy Thompson, as well as Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello. Representatives from the Kentucky Right to Life Association also testified at length.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, called the practice of abortion "abominable."

"While we sit here and discuss and debate the political reality of this issue, women are hurt, families are hurt and unborn children die," he said.

Vocal opponents of the bills included House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Tom Burch, D-Louisville, and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville. Representatives from the Kentucky American Civil Liberties Union also appeared before the committee in objection to the bill.

"I want government not to be involved in our most personal, private decisions but I still think it's important that we try to come across the divide, reach out, and work on ways that we can reduce unintended pregnancies," Marzian said. "Let's look at sex education that's age appropriate. Let's look at access to safe, legal birth control to make sure that women and their families and men have access to prevention of an unintended pregnancy."

The bills were voted down along party lines in the committee after a contentious debate.

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The legislation is House Bill 575, Senate Bill 3 and Senate Bill 8.

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