FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill — as soon as it arrived in his office Feb. 2 — amending the state’s informed consent law to give women patients and doctors the option of consulting in person or by video conferencing.
Since 1998, Kentucky law has required women to meet with a doctor, or a doctor-designated representative, before having an abortion, but some physicians purportedly have been circumventing the rule by using pre-recorded phone messages.
The new measure, Senate Bill 4 — the first signed by Bevin since taking office and the first pro-life measure enacted in 12 years — requires women seeking abortions to be informed of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours prior to consenting to a procedure. A delegation of lawmakers, including the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, walked the bill to Gov. Bevin’s office on Tuesday.
Bevin indicated he will sign the bill again ceremonially at an upcoming right-to-life rally at the Capitol, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
The new pro-life law was met with enthusiastic support from Kentucky Baptist leaders, who applauded the legislative action as “a step in the right direction.”
Kentucky Baptist Convention President Kevin Smith cited Genesis 1:27 in stating that “Kentucky Baptists believe that all life is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, I am thankful that the legislature of this commonwealth has passed this measure, and the governor expressed his eagerness to sign it.
“Prayerfully, this will provide helpful information for mothers and save lives,” said Smith, teaching pastor at Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church.
Neal Thornton, chairman of the KBC Committee on Public Affairs, said the bill is “a victory for every woman and child of Kentucky.”
“Pregnancy represents the stewardship of a life made in God’s image,” said Thornton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Vernon. “This bill will provide mothers with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision on behalf of their unborn child.”
In passing the bill, Kentucky lawmakers ended a stalemate by agreeing to allow live video consultations as an option to fulfill “informed consent” requirements.
In January, the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill requiring face-to-face consultations. After the Democratic-controlled House voted 92-3 to pass the bill in late January but proposed the option of allowing video consultations, the Senate accepted their compromise language by a vote of 33-5. The bill maintains a 1998 provision allowing doctors to be represented by a licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker.
The addition of a live video option potentially paves the way for Kentucky to be among the first states to incorporate a telehealth component in its informed consent law.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown told The Associated Press, “It is my hope that [with] the information provided to these women, these mothers who are considering an abortion, that they will think twice about the action they are about to take.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky convention, noted, “Information is vital in all decision making, and providing women with information about the little child inside them would most certainly cause many to rethink their decisions to have abortions.”
The new law comes on the heels of a “cease and desist” order directed at a Planned Parenthood facility in Louisville that began performing abortions in January. And, shortly after approving the informed consent bill, the Senate passed a bill that would prohibit state funds from being used to provide abortion services. Planned Parenthood currently receives no state funding.
The Planned Parenthood facility “brazenly set out to conduct abortions without a license in clear violation of Kentucky law,” Gov. Bevin stated. “The commonwealth acted swiftly to end these unlawful procedures, and we will continue to investigate the matter thoroughly.”
State officials said the Louisville facility’s application in November to perform abortions was deficient, lacking agreements with an acute care hospital and an ambulance service in the event of unforeseen complications. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, however, maintained it was working to correct the problems and had been given permission in December to provide abortions.
A top lawyer for Bevin’s administration, though, disputed Planned Parenthood’s claim that it followed state guidelines in opening the clinic while its application was pending. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky has since said the clinic will refrain from performing any abortion procedures until it has been issued the appropriate license.