Committee panned for taking up abortion bill during tornado aftermath

Bill outlines Republicans latest goals on abortion restraint

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — A second legislative committee has hear details of what is expected to be the next round of abortion-related legislation to be considered when the General Assembly convenes in January.

The proposed measure, pushed by state Rep. Nancy Tate, has not been fully drafted or revealed publicly but like a hearing in October, general details of the omnibus abortion bill were discussed Wednesday by the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare, and Family Services. And as happened in October, Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates (PPAA) and reproductive rights allies condemned the bill.

But Thursday’s criticism took on a new tone as critics chastised the committee for bringing up the issue as the state begins to try to recovery from historic tornadoes.

“Legislators steamrolling through an avalanche of attacks against abortion care while communities struggle to survive COVID and the devastation of the worst natural disaster on record in our state is tone-deaf and dangerous,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “As the committee heard today, there is a significant health care provider shortage in our state. We should be doing everything we can to increase access to care instead of passing legislation that criminalizes providers, inserts politics into medicine, and makes our state more hostile when it comes to caring for Kentuckians. This bill is the antithesis of showing we support access to basic health care.”

A summary of the bill was first introduced by Tate (R-D27) during a Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee meeting in October.

The key components of the bill include:

  • Restricting access to effective medication abortion, despite current medical and scientific guidance;

  • Making it more difficult for minors to access abortions, including making it difficult or impossible for minors who are pregnant because of abuse by their parent or guardian to obtain a judicial bypass;

  • Prohibiting health facilities from respectfully handling fetal remains in accordance with accepted standards and practice;

  • Requiring the state to promote the idea that medication abortion can be reversed; and

  • Expanding existing restrictions that prohibit public funding from being given to any institution that performs, refers for, or counsels about abortions.

As in the previous hearing, Republican lawmakers previewed efforts to strengthen parental consent standards for minors seeking the procedure and create greater oversight of medication-induced abortions.

The measure would continue aggressive efforts by Kentucky lawmakers to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the General Assembly after the 2016 election. Several of the measures have been challenged in court, including a 2018 law to block a second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him defend that law, which was struck down by lower courts.

“It’s very important for us to make sure that these children have the parental consent before they make such a life-altering decision,” she said previously. “You know in the schools, we don’t even want our children taking aspirin without their parental consent.”

Under the bill, physicians would be required to sign an affidavit stating they secured the parental consent before performing abortions on minors. Doctors violating the provisions would face felony prosecution as well as disciplinary action from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Tate said.

The bill’s opponents said it would overlap with existing Kentucky law dealing with parental consent. They said the measure is intended to stop teens from getting abortions.

Most Kentucky teens already involve their parents in their decisions about whether to get an abortion, said Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. The new bill would make obtaining that consent “more complicated and more time-intensive,” she said.

The proposal fails to recognize that some teens living in abusive situations cannot safely disclose their pregnancies to their families, Wieder said.

“This bill, as we heard today, would make the already-comprehensive judicial bypass process more onerous and could prevent many young people from obtaining a court waiver to ensure their access to care,” she said following the October hearing.

The judicial bypass process occurs in cases where parental consent is deemed to not be in the best interest of the minor.

That oversight would include tracking the distribution of such medication, by creating an abortion-inducing drug certification program, she said.

“It would be very unfortunate for individuals to receive mail-order medication and not to receive advice from their doctors,” she said. “They need to understand what the implications are.”

Wieder said that was part of the “fear-based” comments by abortion opponents at the previous hearing. In Kentucky, the medication-induced procedures occur under the supervision of doctors, she said.

“There is no mail abortion happening through providers,” she told the committee in October. “You have to come in, have your appointment, you meet with a provider and you take the pill with a provider in the room, the first round.”

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