by Tom Loftus, @TomLoftus_CJ –
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The state Senate passed a bill on Monday requiring that doctors perform an ultrasound and describe the image to women who are seeking an abortion.
The Senate voted 32-4 in passing Senate Bill 152. The four no votes were cast by Democrats.
The bill now goes to the House, which has blocked similar bills in recent sessions. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, had no immediate comment on the likely fate of the bill in the House this session, according to a spokesman for Stumbo’s office.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Hopkinsville Republican who sponsors the bill, told senators Monday he was inspired to file the bill by a constituent and friend who many years ago sought to have an abortion and was denied her request to see an ultrasound by a nurse who proceeded with the abortion.
“She regrets to this day not being able to see it —knowing now, feeling certain, that had she been able to see it, had she been allowed to see it — she wouldn’t have made the decision that she did,” Westerfield said.
No other senators spoke on the bill Monday.
The bill would require an ultrasound be shown to a woman seeking an abortion while her doctor explains to her what the image shows. The bill would not require the woman to watch the ultrasound image.
If SB 152 becomes law, doctors who violate its requirements would be subject to $100,000 fine for the first offense and a $250,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
Opponents of the bill told a Senate committee three weeks ago that it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and disregards a woman’s feelings about the medical care she receives. One of those opponents, Derek Selznick, the Reproductive Freedom Project director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said late Monday that the bill leaves “no room for a doctor to actually treat her patient as a human being. This calls for blanket statements that need to be made by the physician regardless if the woman undergoing the procedure says, ‘No, I don’t want to hear this.'”
Selznick also said a nearly identical bill from North Carolina was struck down by federal courts last year and that ruling was allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We hope the House will take a clear-eyed look at this flawed piece of legislation,” Selznick said.
Abortion bills have been routinely blocked in recent past sessions in the Kentucky House where Democrats are in the majority. But that majority is a narrower this year — 50 Democrats to 46 Republicans with four vacant seats to be filled in special elections March 8. And earlier this session the House changed its recent pattern by considering and passing an abortion bill that will require women to receive face-to-face medical consultation — either in person or through live video conferencing — 24 hours before having an abortion.