Thursday, January 5, 2017

Ultrasound bill passes Ky. House, goes to Senate

Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion
HB 3: Yes
Women seeking an abortion would be required to have an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows under a bill that today passed the state House of Representatives on an 83-12 vote.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, who is a primary sponsor of House Bill 2 along with House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said the ultrasound proposal is about informed consent.

“In this Commonwealth, it is important that we give women full and informed consent. We have moved historically from a time when women were just given the bare information about medical procedures to making sure that we respect their autonomy and their decision-making process in issues…that impact their lives,” said Wuchner.

Any woman seeking an abortion would have to comply with the proposed ultrasound requirement before she could give informed consent for an abortion, according to the bill. Revised in 2016, Kentucky’s informed consent law requires women seeking an abortion to have an in-person or teleconferenced medical consult at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill would also require the woman’s physician or health care provider to display the ultrasound images to the woman and allow her to hear her fetus’ heartbeat, although the women would not have to look at the images or listen to the heartbeat. Signed certification would be placed in the woman’s medical record noting that she was presented with the required information and noting if she viewed the images and listened to the heartbeat or declined to do so.

No ultrasound would be required in cases of medical emergency where an abortion is considered a “medical necessity,” according to HB 2. Health care providers who do not comply with the requirement would face fines of $100,000 for a first offense and $250,000 for additional offenses.

Several floor amendments were proposed to the measure, including amendments to outlaw all forms of abortion in Kentucky, provide an exception to the proposed ultrasound requirement in cases of rape or incest and ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. Each floor amendment called stalled on a procedural vote.

One freshman member who voted against HB 2 was Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who said half of her constituents are female. “I have spent years mentoring women who are older than me, younger than me and in my own age group and have found the importance of trusting women to make their own decisions,” said Scott. 

Among those voting in favor of HB 2 was freshman member Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill. The former neo-natal intensive care nurse said HB 2 will give pregnant women a clear understanding of their medical condition so they can make informed decisions.

“As a medical professional, it is my obligation to ensure patients have accurate access to medical information regarding their medical diagnosis and that it should be available to them,” said Moser.  “It is with accurate information that a patient can make an informed decision regarding their treatment, whether it is treatment for a brain tumor requiring an MRI or a CT scan, or if it is to determine the health and the progress of a pregnancy through an ultrasound.”

HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.