BY RACHAEL BLANDAU – STAFF WRITER
This week, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, which he claimed was operating a clinic in Louisville that violated state law. From Dec. 3 to Jan. 28 the clinic had allegedly performed 23 unlawful abortions, which for Governor Bevin was the basis of his lawsuit. This comes mere weeks after he filed a similar lawsuit against an abortion clinic in Lexington, EMW’s Women’s Clinic, claiming that the clinic is unlicensed and does not follow state protocols.
These actions were the start of several measures that the Bevin Administration is taking to eradicate the practice of abortion within the state. Governor Bevin has described himself as “ unapologetically pro-life,” and maintains anti-abortion legislation to be one of his most passionate causes. This was apparent on Feb. 2 when he made the unorthodox decision to sign his first bill—about abortion—just moments after legislators presented it to him. The bill updates Kentucky’s informed consent law, requiring patients seeking abortions to meet with their doctors in person or by video at least 24 hours before the abortion to be told of medical risks and benefits.
Making the abortion consent bill his first ever bill signed, Governor Bevin proved just how firm his stance is on the issue. Since then, there has been yet another controversial abortion bill proposed by the Kentucky Senate, that has left fellow lawmakers and citizens outraged over the alleged disregard of women’s rights. The bill proposes that women seeking an abortion will be required to get an ultrasound and listen to doctors describe the image. Doctors who violate the law would be fined 100,000 dollars for their first offense and 250,000 if they continued. Doctors are left in an uncomfortable position. The doctor-patient relationship requires doctors to respect a patient’s decision concerning their healthcare, and this law would straddle the line of propriety.
The bill was passed through the Kentucky Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee on Feb. 11, in yet another ceremonial move as pro-choice protestors flocked the rotunda to protest the abortion consent bill, in a vote of 11-1. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican out of Hopkinsville, claimed that the bills possibly damaging consequences on the patient – doctor relationship is unimportant in the scheme of things, saying: “As important as the doctor-patient relationship is, and it is, it’s not as important as a life…”
However, the opposition claims that it has less to do with protecting the sanctity of life, and more with humiliating women who seek to get an abortion. Making doctors humiliate women for an extremely personal decision turns professionals into bullies, and has the consequence of making the Bevin administration and the Kentucky Senate seem to care less about such fundamental rights as being able to make decisions about your own body.
Lawmakers such as Louisville Democrat Rep. Mary Lou Marzian have made pointed efforts to point out how interfering the new abortion bills are. Marzian sponsored House bill 396 in response, specifying that men would have to visit a doctor twice and have a hand-written note from their wives to obtain a prescription for Viagra. She points out that like the abortion bills, the Viagra bill is “about family values.”
Marzian understands that the bill will probably not go far, but claims that that was not the purpose—it was mean to dissuade a group of predominately male lawmakers from interfering with women’s health.
“Do we really want a bunch or legislators interfering in private, personal, medical decisions?” she asked.
While Marzian’s bill is extreme, she shares the reaction of many Kentuckians to the Governor and Kentucky Senate’s proposals for abortion regulation. Governor Bevin made a statement by choosing the informed abortion consent bill to be his first signed as Governor, and the citizens of Kentucky have responded in protest. Although efforts to reform abortion laws are still being voted on, the Bevin administration and state legislature have made it clear that they will not stop here—more is yet to come.