FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers outlined their next round of abortion legislation in Kentucky on Wednesday, previewing efforts to strengthen parental consent standards for minors seeking the procedure and create greater oversight of medication-induced abortions.
GOP Rep. Nancy Tate told a legislative panel that the measure is still being crafted for introduction in the General Assembly session starting in early January. She described broad goals of the measure while speaking alongside anti-abortion activists.
Abortion-rights advocates said the measure would lead to greater government intrusion into family relationships. The bill would worsen situations for teens who fear divulging their pregnancies to their families because they have already dealt with abuse at home, they said.
The measure would continue aggressive efforts by Kentucky lawmakers to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the General Assembly after the 2016 election. Several of the measures have been challenged in court, including a 2018 law to block a second-trimester procedure to end pregnancies. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him defend that law, which was struck down by lower courts.
Tightening parental consent standards is one priority of the new measure, Tate said Wednesday.
“It's very important for us to make sure that these children have the parental consent before they make such a life-altering decision,” she told the committee. “You know in the schools, we don't even want our children taking aspirin without their parental consent.”
Under the bill, physicians would be required to sign an affidavit stating they secured the parental consent before performing abortions on minors. Doctors violating the provisions would face felony prosecution as well as disciplinary action from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Tate said.
The bill's opponents said it would overlap with existing Kentucky law dealing with parental consent. They said the measure is intended to stop teens from getting abortions.
Most Kentucky teens already involve their parents in their decisions about whether to get an abortion, said Tamarra Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. The new bill would make obtaining that consent “more complicated and more time-intensive,” she said.
The proposal fails to recognize that some teens living in abusive situations cannot safely disclose their pregnancies to their families, Wieder said.
“This bill, as we heard today, would make the already-comprehensive judicial bypass process more onerous and could prevent many young people from obtaining a court waiver to ensure their access to care,” she said.
The judicial bypass process occurs in cases where parental consent is deemed to not be in the best interest of the minor.
Tate said the measure also would aim to increase state oversight of medication-induced abortions, which account for slightly more than half of abortions in Kentucky.
That oversight would include tracking the distribution of such medication, by creating an abortion-inducing drug certification program, she said.
“It would be very unfortunate for individuals to receive mail-order medication and not to receive advice from their doctors," she said. "They need to understand what the implications are.”
Wieder said that was part of the “fear-based” comments by abortion opponents at the hearing. In Kentucky, the medication-induced procedures occur under the supervision of doctors, she said.
“There is no mail abortion happening through providers," she told the committee. "You have to come in, have your appointment, you meet with a provider and you take the pill with a provider in the room, the first round.”