Republican legislator gives overview of ‘pro-life omnibus bill’ that opponents say is designed to push abortion out of reach

Rep. Nancy Tate discussed her bill. (Image from WTVQ, Lexington)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Foes of abortion gave state legislators an overview Wednesday of a proposed bill that would strengthen parental-consent requirements, increase abortion-medication rules, require individual cremation of aborted fetuses and let medical providers refuse to do procedures that “violate their conscience.”
Rep. Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg, told the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection that her “pro-life omnibus bill” will not include exemptions for rape or incest.

Tate said, “If there’s a human baby that’s created from that tragedy,” Tate said, “then the life of that human baby needs to be treated with dignity and respect as well.”
Addia Wuchner, executive director of the Kentucky Right to Life Association and a former state representative, said the yet-to-be-filed bill will be called the “Humanity in Health Care Act.”
Kentucky requires consent of one parent or legal guardian, or a “judicial bypass” court order, for a minor to obtain an abortion. Tate’s bill would require a parent’s identification to be recorded, and require a physician to sign an affidavit stating that proper parental consent had been given.
While giving a summary of a PowerPoint presentation about the bill, Tate said it would also remove the ability of the physician to delegate the responsibility of obtaining proper parental consent to someone else.
Physicians who knowingly perform an abortion on a minor without following these rules would be  subject to discipline by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and could be found guilty of a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. Performing an abortion without knowing that the patient is a minor would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. The bill has no criminal sanctions against the patient.
Tate said the bill would also raise standards for a minor to qualify for judicial bypass. Her presentation said a judge must find “clear and convincing evidence that the minor is mature, that the abortion is in the best interest of the minor, and that the pregnancy is not a result of abuse by the parent or guardian.”
Further, the judge must ensure the minor is not seeking an abortion due to influence or pressure from an outside source, and would not be allowed to consider a minor’s financial situation as a reason to approve an abortion.
Tamarra Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, told the committee that the bill would make getting parental consent and judicial bypass more difficult. She added that “the vast majority” of teens in Kentucky already involve their parents in their abortion decisions.

“This bill as we heard today would make the already comprehensive judicial bypass process more onerous and prevent many young people from obtaining a court waiver to ensure their access to care, which is directly what this bill is trying to do — to stop young people from accessing abortion,” Wieder said.

She noted that national groups such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose parental-consent laws because they delay access to critical care and threaten the privacy and safety of vulnerable young people.
The annual abortion report from the cabinet’s Office of Vital Statistics says that in 2020, 4,104 abortions were recorded in Kentucky. Of those, 13 were performed on girls younger than 15 and 353 were for those 15 to 19. Most abortions (2,421) were among Kentucky women 20 to 29; 779 were for those 30-34; 399 for  those 35-39; and 139 for women 40 or older.
Tate’s bill would also increase regulations on abortions induced by drugs, by not allowing them to be mailed. Tate said more than half of the abortions done in Kentucky each year are done with such drugs.
The bill also would require a physician providing chemical abortions to be credentialed, and to have a signed contract with another physician “who is able to handle complications if they arise,” and an emergency transfer agreement.
It also adds a list of things physicians must do prior to the abortion, including a requirement for the physician to examine the patient in person, conduct a range of blood tests, and do an ultrasound to determine the fetus’ gestational age.
Sue Liebel, state policy director of Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion political action committee, said abortion activists have been “quietly building a whole new business model to target young women on their phones” and providing them with information about how to get abortion drugs by mail.

“This is the goal that would make every bathroom, whether it’s in our own homes, or in the dorm bathroom, an abortion clinic,” she said. “This bill modernizes Kentucky laws to align with the pharmaceutical dangers of chemical abortion.”
The bill would add several new elements to the informed-consent form, including information about “abortion-pill reversal,” and require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create a website and publish printed material about the reversal process, and where patients can find a provider who offers it. The technique involves a series of oral or injected doses of the hormone progesterone after the first drug used in a chemical abortion is taken.
Wieder said the claims about abortion-pill reversal are based on “junk science,” pointing out that it is not recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says claims supporting the treatment “are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards” and that “legislative mandates based on unproven, unethical research are dangerous to women’s health.”
Tate disagreed, saying studies have shown abortion-pill reversal to be successful.
The bill would also require a physician to ensure that the patient seeking an abortion is not being coerced or forced into having the procedure, and would update the reporting requirements.
Also, the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy would be required to create a program to monitor distribution of abortion-inducing drugs. Physicians who do not follow these certificate guidelines would be subject to a $250,000 fine.
The bill would also write new rules for handling fetal remains, giving parents options for disposal, and require each fetus to be cremated individually.
“We recognize it as a human baby,” Tate said. “It should not be treated as medical waste, it should not be thrown into an incinerator, it should be treated with dignity; and then, therefore, it should be disposed of on an individual basis.”
Wieder said that is a “blatant attempt to create shame and stigma,” adding that there are already regulations about how medical tissue is disposed of.
Jackie McGranahan, Kentucky policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a prepared statement that the legislation is a “blatant attempt to push abortion care entirely out of reach under the guise of “public protection.”
“The bills would increase the government’s involvement in family relationships and force pregnant Kentuckians, including children, to remain pregnant against their will,” she said. “Additionally, the bills are rife with medical fallacies and outright untruths about abortion care.”
Late last month, Democrats pre-filed a bill that would provide every individual in Kentucky with access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion and contraception. With a Republican super-majority in both the House and Senate, the bill seems unlikely to gain any traction.
Under House Bill 91 passed by the legislature this year, Kentucky voters will decide in November 2022 if they want to add language to the state constitution a statement that the state’s basic law does not secure or protect a right to abortion, or funding of it.
Previous Article
Next Article