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Senate Panel OKs Bill Requiring Sonogram Before Abortion In Kentucky

Legislative Research Commission

The state Senate has approved a bill requiring women who seek an abortion in Kentucky to view or hear a description of a sonogram image of their own fetus.

The legislation is one in a handful of anti-abortion measures being pushed through the General Assembly this year.

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Hopkinsville Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, clashed Thursday morning with opponents of the bill, who say it would violate women's right to have an abortion.

“If you think this isn’t about making sure that mother has all the information that she needs and that this is no more than a political stunt, well, we’re just going to have to disagree,” Westerfield said

The bill would require a doctor to provide a “simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting,” including the location of the fetus in the uterus and a medical description of the body.

The committee approved the bill 11-1. State Sen. Perry Clark, a Louisville Democrat, was the lone no vote.

Doctors who refuse to conduct the ultrasound explanation could be charged with a Class D felony and face a $100,000 fine.

Derek Selznick, reproductive freedom project director for the ACLU of Kentucky, the bill would take away a woman’s autonomy.

“A woman can be saying, ‘No, I don’t want to hear this information.’ And the doctor has no choice but to do that or to risk a Class D felony and $100,000 fine. That is absolutely ridiculous,” Selznick said.

A federal judge ruled a similar law in North Carolina unconstitutional in 2014. The Supreme Court refused to take up an appeal of the ruling last year.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has already signed a bill that would require women to have an in-person or video conference with a doctor 24 hours before getting an abortion.

A bill that would eliminate the state’s contribution to Kentucky Planned Parenthood clinics has passed the Republican-led Senate and a growing pro-life contingent is pushing to have it heard in the Democratic-led House.

In past legislative sessions, the House typically ignored anti-abortion bills, but this year the chamber has warmed up to the issue.

All 100 House seats are up for re-election in November and the Democratic majority is defending a dwindling 50-46 margin. The chamber has veered increasingly conservative after Bevin's election in November and the defection of two House Democratic to the Republican Party.

State State Sen. Albert Robinson, a Republican from London, said this session is a “golden opportunity” for anti-abortion legislation.

“This a year that there will be some major decisions that could change the entire legislature this November,” Robinson said.

“If the Democrats will go and vote according to their own districts, there probably won’t be as many changes in the House of Representatives."

The bill heads now to the full Senate.