Women in Kentucky must have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor at least 24 hours before having an abortion under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.
The Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 32-5. Kentucky law has required women meet with a doctor since 1998. But since then, many doctors have discussed the procedure with women on the phone. The new bill clarifies that patients must meet with doctors in person.
Kentucky has just two abortion clinics, one in Louisville and another in Lexington, the state’s two largest cities.
“You can see, have better understanding, watch body language,” Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said. “When you have that type of personal interaction, I think (it brings) more to light what the implications of the decision are.”
The bill updates Kentucky’s “informed consent law.” But critics, including Derek Selznick with the American Civil Liberties Union, call it “forced delay,” saying it creates “needless obstacles for women, especially burdening those that live outside of Louisville and Lexington.”
Republican state Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, who sponsored the bill, said the bill does not add cost because “a woman does not need to travel outside of her own community” to receive the information.
Adams said the language of the bill allows a doctor to designate someone to represent him or her at the face-to-face meeting. For instance, she said, a doctor in Louisville could designate a social worker or nurse practitioner to meet with patients in distant counties.
Opposition to the bill seems to be waning. The Senate approved the bill with no debate, with several prominent Democrats voting for it, including Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones of Pikeville. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where Democrats have often killed bills that seek to restrict access to abortion.
But Democrats in the House are clinging to a 50- 46 majority, with four special elections looming in March that could determine who controls the chamber. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the bill has a better chance of passing this year.