Thursday, March 29, 2018

Bevin gets bill to ban most common type of 2nd-trimester abortion

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A  House bill to ban the most common kind of second-trimester abortion has finally passed and is headed to Gov. Matt Bevin's desk for his signature. But that may not be the end of it.

Rep. Addia Wuchner
House Bill 454, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would prohibit an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, or D&E, after roughly 11 weeks of pregnancy except in medical emergencies. Reuters reports that 16 percent of all abortions performed in the state use D&E.

The procedure involves dilating the cervix and removing the fetus using suction and surgical tools. If the bill becomes law, abortion providers found in violation of it would be guilty of a felony that carries a prison sentence. The women undergoing the procedure would not be prosecuted.

"This law here in the commonwealth is about the humane treatment of an unborn child, to protect an unborn child from dismemberment," Wuchner said while presenting the bill to the House.

Critics of the bill said it is unconstitutional and will likely face legal challenges.

A federal court struck down a ban on the procedure in Texas, and similar bans have been temporarily blocked in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma while litigation proceeds. Mississippi and West Virginia have similar bans that haven't been challenged in court, because the bans aren't expected to have an impact on abortion services, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

The bill passed the House March 12 by 71-11 vote and the Senate March 22 by 31-5. A Senate change was approved in the House March 27 by 75-13 to a room full of applause. The Senate change made the definition of "unborn child" to mean from fertilization until live birth.

Opponents of the bill also say that without legal access to D&E procedures, Kentucky women will be limited to undergoing more expensive abortions that would require a hospital stay, and that by law, no publicly owned healthcare facility can perform abortions, unless it's to save the life of the pregnant woman. In addition, they say that this is part of a larger anti-abortion strategy to ban the procedure altogether.

In 2016, the state's "informed consent" law was amended to require women seeking an abortion to have a face-to-face or live-chat consultation before the procedure.

 In 2017, when Republicans took full control of the General Assembly, it passed two abortion bills that were signed into law by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who was elected in 2015. One banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, unless the mother's life is in danger. The other required women to get an ultrasound before an abortion that included an audible heartbeat, and required the doctor to show and describe the image of the fetus to the patient before performing the abortion. This law was struck down in court, but the state has appealed.

The only remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky, EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, is in a legal battle with the state over licensing issues.

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