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Ky. Senate Committee Approves Bill Requiring In-Person Mandatory Counseling

January 14, 2016 — A Kentucky Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill (SB 4) that would require women to undergo in-person mandatory counseling with a physician or physician designee at least 24 hours before an abortion, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The measure, proposed by state Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R), now advances to the full state Senate (Loftus, Louisville Courier-Journal, 1/13).

Background

Under current state law, a licensed nurse, physician, physician assistant or social worker must tell women at least 24 hours prior to an abortion about the procedure's risks and abortion alternatives. The state allows the mandatory counseling to be provided over the phone.

In January 2015, the Kentucky Senate voted 30-5 to pass a similar measure (SB 4) (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/13/15). However, the measure was defeated in the House Health & Welfare Committee two months later (Kentucky Legislature records, accessed 1/14).

According to the Courier-Journal, the measure has in recent years been consistently approved by the state Senate but rejected by the state House.

Committee Votes To Advance Bill

On Wednesday, the state Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee voted 9-1 to advance the measure to the Senate floor.

In testimony, Derek Selznick, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, criticized the measure, noting that there only are two clinics in the state, in Louisville and Lexington, and that it would unnecessarily burden women to require them to make two trips to a clinic.

"For women who live outside Louisville or Lexington who are paid by the hour, this trip could add anywhere from between $250 to $700 to the cost of their [abortion care] in out-of-pocket expenses," he said. Further, after the hearing, he noted that there are often antiabortion-rights protests outside the Louisville clinic, and that "to subject women" to protesters "twice ... is just awful."

During testimony, Selznick also said the bill does not account for advances in telemedicine. "I see no reason why this bill does not allow the use of telemedicine unless the intent of this bill is to make it harder for a woman in Kentucky to get an abortion," Selznick said.

Bill Prospects

According to the Courier-Journal, the state Senate likely will approve the measure (Louisville Courier-Journal, 1/13).

Meanwhile, state Rep. Tom Burch (D) -- chair of the state House Health and Welfare Committee, which has rejected similar antiabortion-rights proposals in the past -- said he could not predict how state lawmakers in the House would vote on the bill this year. "I can't tell you what's going to happen," he said, adding, "I can tell you I don't know why we need this bill ... this is a bill that gets inside a woman's doctor's appointments" (Cheves, Lexington Herald-Leader, 1/13).