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Kentucky Senate Approves In-Person 'Informed Consent' Abortion Bill

Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building
Henryk Sadura
Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building

The Kentucky Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours prior to the procedure.

The bill now moves on to the House, which has refused to take it up in the past, although support has been growing in the chamber.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said it’s important for women to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor prior to an abortion.

“The essence of it is you can have better understanding, watch body language and the personal effects when you have that type of personal interaction,” Stivers said. “I think it brings more to light what the implications of the decision are.”

Kentucky already has an “informed consent” law on the books, but currently abortion-seekers can receive the information over the phone.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Louisville Republican who sponsored the bill, said sometimes the meeting comes in the form of a recorded message, which she called “simply not acceptable.”

“She should be afforded the opportunity to discuss the entire process and procedure with her doctor or a medical designee,” Raque Adams said.

Opponents of the bill say it would be particularly onerous for women in Eastern and Western Kentucky, who would have to travel to one of the state’s two abortion providers in Lexington or Louisville.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, a Democrat from Lexington, said the bill is unnecessary because women understand “what it means when they’re told they’re pregnant.”

“Given that commonsense understanding, to be required to have a face-to-face meeting with a physician just doesn’t make any sense,” Thomas said.

The state Senate has approved the legislation for the past several years, but the Democratic-led House has not taken it up. However, this year it looks like the bill might have a better chance.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, said Democrats might vote for the bill because the current law wasn’t supposed to allow over-the-phone meetings.

“I hear a lot of people say that it was the intent to have a face-to-face meeting; that seems to be getting some traction, at least within the Democratic caucus,” Stumbo said.

On Tuesday, the Senate also approved a bill that would move statewide elections to even-numbered years, and another that would allow state pensions — including those of legislators — to be subject to open to records requests.