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Bill Requiring In-Person Doctor Visit Before Abortion Advances In Kentucky Senate

Legislative Research Commission

A legislative committee on Wednesday passed a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours in advance of the procedure.

Since 2001, women seeking an abortion have been able to have the so-called “informed consent” meeting over the phone.

State Sen. Albert Robinson, the chair of the Military and Public Affairs committee, said he believes women who get abortions “are coming back with regrets.”

“They do need to know the full issue and make it as personal as they can,” said Robinson, a London Republican.

“It’s good for them to know and have full time to realize what they’re getting into. This is giving you actual face-to-face talk with people who actually know what you’re actually doing.”

The Republican-led state Senate has passed in-person informed consent bills for the past eight years. The Democratic-led House has declined to take it up.

Robinson said he believes House Democrats may find it increasingly difficult to resist the legislation following the election of a Republican governor and the perception that Kentucky isbecoming increasingly conservative.

All 100 House seats up are for election in November.

“Why did you not go to your leadership and say, ‘Give us an opportunity to vote for this?’” Robinson asked of conservative House Democrats.

House Democrats currently have 50 seats in the chamber, Republicans have 46 and four will be decided in special elections on March 8.

Derek Selznick, reproductive freedom project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said his organization isn’t focused on the “maybes” of whether the House will flip in favor of pro-life Republicans.

Selznick said a woman seeking an abortion shouldn’t be forced to have the informed consent meeting in person.

“It’s a dehumanizing experience. There are protesters yelling at women going in there, calling them awful names. And to subject women to doing that twice, I think is just awful,” Selznick said

The only abortion providers in Kentucky are in Lexington and Louisville. The ACLU argues that the bill would require women in remote parts of the state to drive long distances and spend the night to get an abortion, estimating that it would add between $250 and $700 in expenses.

“We hope that it will be treated as it's been treated in years past, that it does not pass the House, Selznick said.

But the bill's chances of passing in the House are better this year. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he's heard approving chatter about the issue among Democrats.

"I hear more people talk about it now than I have in years past on this side. I hear some favorable comments about it," Stumbo said.

(Caption: State Sen. Albert Robinson earlier this month, via the Legislative Research Commission)

This story has been updated.