Bill seeks to put new restrictions on abortion clinics

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Keeping up its coordinated offensive aimed at abortion providers, the Kentucky Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would put new restrictions on abortion clinics.

The measure is part of a series of bills passed in recent weeks by the Republican-led Senate that would add conditions on providers before abortions are performed and strengthen oversight of clinics.

Sen. Albert Robinson, lead sponsor of the bill that passed, 32-5, on Wednesday, said his measure was designed to protect the health and safety of women.

“These are very basic standards that do nothing more than ensure that a facility is able to properly care for patients undergoing an invasive surgery,” said Robinson, R-London.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, derided it as the “abortion bill of the week” in the Senate.

“If you’re a young woman in Kentucky of child-bearing years, this has been a really rough session for you,” Thomas said in voting against the measure. “This session has not been kind to young women when it comes to their … reproductive rights.”

The bill next goes to the Democratic-led House.

The measure would require abortion clinics to meet stricter, outpatient surgical center standards.

“There is no justifiable reason that a facility performing such a procedure shouldn’t be held to the same standards as any other,” Robinson said.

Also under the bill, abortion clinics would have to obtain a certificate of need from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It also would require doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.

Derek Selznick, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said in a statement Wednesday that the bill was “another attempt to shut down access to safe and legal abortions in the commonwealth.”

Selznick said the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a case involving a similar law.

“It is unfortunate the Senate decided to move legislation forward that is already under question by our nation’s highest court,” he said.

Abortion has been a high-profile issue in this year’s legislative session.

A bill already signed into law by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin updates the state’s informed consent law requiring women seeking abortions be told of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours beforehand.

The bill gives patients and doctors the option of consultations in person or through real-time video. Abortion foes say some doctors had patients listen to a recorded message on the phone with no interaction.

Another Senate-passed bill would require doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions and to describe what’s seen to the pregnant woman. Other abortion-related bills that cleared the Senate include banning the sale of fetal body parts and putting Planned Parenthood clinics at the end of the line for family planning funds. Those bills are pending in the House.

In response to the flurry of abortion legislation, Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville introduced a bill to require Kentucky men to visit a doctor twice and have signed permission from their wives before obtaining a prescription for Viagra or other such drugs for erectile dysfunction. The bill was referred to a committee which has taken no action on it.