Frankfort—As soon as it arrived in his office, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed a bill 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.
The measure, Senate Bill 4-the first signed by the state’s new Republican governor-requires women seeking abortions be informed of the 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 said, “Based on Genesis 1:27, 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,” added Smith, teaching pastor at Louisville’s Highview Baptist Church.
“This is a victory for every woman and child of Kentucky,” said Neal Thornton, chairman of the KBC’s Committee on Public Affairs.
“Pregnancy represents the stewardship of a life made in God’s image,” said Thornton, pastor of First Baptist Church of 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 also allow live video consultations as an option to fulfill “informed consent” requirements. The consensus marked the first time in 12 years that the Kentucky General Assembly has approved a pro-life bill.
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 last week but proposed the option of allowing video consultations, the Senate accepted their compromise language by a vote of 33-5. The House version also allows doctors to be represented by a licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker.
Since 1998, Kentucky law has required women to meet with a doctor before having an abortion. But some physicians purportedly have been circumventing the rule by using pre-recorded phone messages. 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.
“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,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, told Associated Press.
“This bill will ensure that women receive vital information before going through with abortions," said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “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 in that it did not have agreements with an acute care hospital and an ambulance service in the event of unforeseen complications. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, however, maintains it was working to correct the problems and had been given permission in December to provide abortions.
A top lawyer for Gov. Bevin’s administration, though, disputes Planned Parenthood’s claim that it followed state guidelines in opening 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. (WR)