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Kentucky House Approves 'Informed Consent' Abortion Bill

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

Hours after Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky announced its Louisville clinic had begun providing abortions, the state House approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to meet — in person or via video conference — with a doctor at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill, which passed 92-3, is a victory for Republicans who have failed to pass so-called “informed consent” bills through the Democratic-led House for more than a decade.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, called it a “historic day.”

“The informed consent law was something that many of us have long fought for, many members of our caucus, and we knew members of our majority caucus would vote for it if we could ever get it there,” Hoover said.

The bill originally required the meetings to take place in person, but the video conference option was added during an unposted committee hearing that took place in an office during the middle of the day’s proceedings.

The Republican-controlled state Senate already approved a version of the bill that did not include the video conference option.

The amended bill will now go back to the Senate for approval.

During the impromptu committee hearing, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat from Louisville, said the so-called telehealth option was a “good compromise,” but she still disapproved of the bill.

“I think it’s really inappropriate to be dictating to women health care decisions that should be left to their physicians, to themselves and to their God,” Marzian said.

Marzian was one of three state representatives who voted against the bill on the floor. She called the legislation “purely a political vote.”

Voting for anti-abortion measures can be a popular move in Kentucky: a 2014 Marist Poll showed that 67 percent of Kentuckians think abortion should be illegal. Democrats have a slim 50-46 majority in the House and are desperate to hold onto their lead when all 100 seats are up for election in November.

Derek Selznick with the ACLU of Kentucky said that despite the video conference option, the legislation is “masquerading itself as a bill that helps Kentucky women.”

“While the inclusion of language embracing new technologies allowing patients easier and more convenient access to counseling is admirable, and an idea whose time has come, we remain strongly opposed to this legislation,” Selznick said in a statement.

Kentucky already has an "informed consent" law on the books, but abortion seekers are allowed to have the meetings over the phone.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo called the legislation a “reflection of the way that a representative democracy ought to work.”

“… that warring factions come together — emotionally charged factions who believe with all their heart that they’re right and the other side’s wrong — come together and figure out a way to bridge the gap and get to a point that you want to get to in a fair and equitable manner,” Stumbo said.

This story has been updated.