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Kentucky Senate OKs Bill Requiring In-Person Visit With Medical Professional Before Abortion

FRANKFORT — A bill that would delay women's access to abortions passed through the Kentucky Senate without any delay at all.

In less than 24 hours, Senate Bill 4 cleared a committee composed of 14 men and no women, then passed a floor vote on Friday. The bill would add more waiting time to the state's current 24-hour delay by requiring women seeking abortions to consult face-to-face—instead of by phone—with a medical professional before the women go to the doctor for the procedure.

Sen. Julie Raque-Adams, a Louisville Republican, is sponsoring the bill.

"Abortion providers in Kentucky have misinterpreted the current law and are employing a pre-recorded telephone message instead of in-person counseling between a medical professional and the woman," Raque-Adams said.

Current law already requires that women receive counseling prior to the procedure. Many women in limited-access areas opt to consult via telephone, a state-approved practice that is available for a variety of medical procedures. Senate Bill 4 would single-out abortion telephone consultations and bar them.

During a committee hearing that lasted only 20 minutes, the bill was supported by several committee members, including state Sen. Dan Seum, a Louisville Democrat.

"You know, I've listened to some of the discussion here and I think it's absolutely appalling that it's only the woman's decision," Seum said. "We never include the man or the father."

The only voice of opposition to the measure to speak before the committee on Thursday came from Derek Selznick of the ACLU of Kentucky.

"There are two clinics in the state of Kentucky," Selznick said. "The out of pocket expenses that would accrue are between $250 to $700. If 60 percent of women getting abortions are already mothers, many work hourly jobs, compounding that to make a two-trip requirement if living out in the state, those are huge expenses."

The next morning on the Senate floor, Democratic lawmakers spoke out against the measure; the only female senator to do so was state Sen. Denise Harper-Angel, of Louisville.

SB 4 passed out of committee with one pass vote and one vote against, then passed out of the Senate the next morning 30-5. It will be assigned to a House committee when the legislature re-convenes Feb. 3.