New women’s health laws tighten abortion regulations

Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer

Gov. Matt Bevin signed two bills affecting women’s health on Jan. 9: one requiring an ultrasound to be performed before having an abortion and one banning abortions at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

According to the Kentucky Legislature website, House Bill 2 created an Ultrasound Informed Consent Act. Under the act, physicians are required to perform an ultrasound on a pregnant patient and explain the results of the ultrasound screening. If audible, the physician is required to let the patient hear the fetus heartbeat.

If the patient chooses, she can refuse to see the ultrasound or to hear the heartbeat.

The other bill, Senate Bill 5, prohibits abortion at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires a determination of the fetus’ age before performing an abortion.

Abigail French, coordinator of the Women’s Center and Educational Programming, said the impact of these laws will be limited because of the amount of hours women are already driving to receive abortion services. She said many women she sees choose clinics in Tennessee, not Kentucky.

As far as services offered at the Women’s Center, she said the new laws will not impact their plans.

“Our role is to help students find appropriate resources and services, so this changes some of the information that we share with a student but does not change anything in terms of procedure for us,” French said.

She said often the Women’s Center is involved in referring students to doctors in the area and helping them find birth control resources.

“In the Women’s Center, we meet with students individually to discuss their needs and provide information on what their options are, where they can access services and what assistance services are available,” French said. “Every student has different circumstances and different questions, so we work case-by-case to help students get the information they need.”

For Life House Care Center, a pregnancy center in Murray, the announcement of the new laws was more impactful. Hailey Roach, client services director, said it’s going to be an exciting year for their center because the laws will positively affect lives of unborn children.

In 2016, Life House began planning to add an ultrasound branch to their center. She said they will be offering free ultrasound services for their clients starting soon this year, with the hopes of saving more unborn babies from harm and advocating for their right to life.

“The law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion is performed is a step in the right direction,” Roach said. “Too often these babies are dehumanized, and an ultrasound will empower these moms to see that these are real lives. They have the power to provide a future for these babies, whether that be through parenting or adoption.”

However, Melanie Davis, junior from Mt. Vernon, Indiana, said House Bill 2 is degrading and unnecessary, both medically and emotionally. Davis said restricting access to abortions will only worsen the issue.

“If it continues to be difficult to receive medical attention in this way, that doesn’t mean abortions will stop,” Davis said. “It only means that they’ll continue to happen unsafely, thus harming even more individuals — souls, if you will, both unborn and born — in the process.”

Davis said she is less convinced of the positive effects of House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 5. Instead, she believes abortions are a personal decision — one she said the government shouldn’t control.

“I do really wish they would stop beating around the bush and just admit to what they’re doing: controlling women through their medical health,” Davis said. “Bans on abortion, unaffordable birth control, defunding of women’s health centers … It’s a pretty common theme.”