Day 11: Informed Consent for Abortion and Ending Odd-Year Elections

by Renee Shaw | 01/23/14 11:03 AM

On the 41st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, the Kentucky Senate voted to strengthen the state's informed consent laws. The move came after an emotional debate about requiring women seeking an abortion to have face-to-face counseling with the abortion provider (or a professional designee) 24 hours prior to the procedure.

Pro-life advocates argue that the state's 1998 informed consent measure has been misinterpreted to allow phone consultations or pre-recorded messages to bypass face-to-face consultations, which was the original intent of the law. Sen. Sara Beth Gregory (R-Monticello) is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 3 that updates Kentucky's informed consent laws.

During yesterday's debate on the measure, a freshman legislator made his first major floor speech. Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) won a special election late last year to fill the vacancy left by liberal spitfire Kathy Stein.

Gregory took issue with Thomas' characterization of the bill and its intent.

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine (R-Southgate) has long sponsored the informed consent legislation carried now by Gregory. An unwavering ambassador for pro-life issues, Stine called the bill a consumer protection measure that would prevent buyers' remorse among women who opt for an abortion.

After about 30 minutes of debate, the Senate approved Senate Bill 3 by a vote of 33-5 with four Jefferson County Democrats joining freshman Democrat Thomas in dissent. The measure now goes to the House where it has stalled in previous sessions.

Eliminating Odd-Year Elections for Statewide Offices
Another debate divided the Senate more deeply along party lines. Senate Bill 27 is a constitutional amendment that proposes moving elections of Kentucky's constitutional officers to even-numbered years. The measure would effectively end odd-year elections and save the state and counties millions of dollars, according to its sponsor, Sen. Christian McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill).

Sen. Ray Jones (D-Pikeveille) bristled at the notion that the proposed constitutional amendment isn't politically motivated. Jones said he believes the move would benefit Republicans and disadvantage Democrats because special-interest groups would pump more money into presidential election years, making it tougher for down-ballot Democrats to compete.

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) endorsed the bill for its potential to enhance civic engagement in the electoral process and get more people to the polls. He added that Kentucky is one of only five states that elect statewide officers in odd-numbered years, the others being New Jersey, Virginia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

The Senate approved SB 27 on a 25-12 vote, mostly along party lines. The measure now moves to the House.

Watch Legislative Update each weeknight during the session at 11 p.m. on KET, and follow me on Twitter @ReneeKET for updates throughout the day.

KET Senate Reporter Steve Shaw contributed to this post.