FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Abortion legislation stayed on a fast track Wednesday as Republicans flexed their expanded power to push a measure to require doctors to perform ultrasounds prior to abortions.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill on a 14-5 vote after tense exchanges between abortion-rights advocates and Republican lawmakers supporting the measure.
Supporters showed video of ultrasound procedures that showed fetal heartbeats. Opponents said the bill amounted to political interference in personal medical decisions.
“Why don’t we just trust women to know what’s best for them and for their bodies?” said Katie Martin, among abortion-rights advocates who spoke out against the legislation Wednesday.
Republicans were expected to push another abortion bill at a Senate committee hearing later Wednesday. That measure aims to ban abortions in Kentucky after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The quick progress for the ultrasound bill reflected changing political dynamics in the House.
Similar measures stalled in prior years when Democrats ran the House. Republicans assumed control of the chamber when this year’s legislative session opened Tuesday.
The ultrasound bill would require doctors to display the images so the pregnant woman may view them and explain what the ultrasound shows. The woman could choose to avert her eyes from the images without risk of penalty to her or the doctor.
Doctors violating terms of the measure would be fined up to $100,000 for a first offense and up to $250,000 for subsequence violations.
In backing the bill, Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti of Lexington said: “To have true informed consent, you must have all the information. … Where else in our medical procedures do we say less information is better?”
Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, countered that lawmakers speaking up for the bill don’t know “one thing about what goes through a woman’s mind” when deciding to seek an abortion.
Before the committee action, abortion-rights advocates spoke out against the measures, aiming their criticism at Republican legislative leaders.
The doctor-patient relationship is “none of your business and you would do well to remember that,” said Tamarri Wieder with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky.