FRANKFORT (AP) — Legislation pushed by abortion opponents showed signs of strength Wednesday in the Kentucky House, where the top Republican revealed a strategy aimed at forcing an eventual vote on its passage.
In a procedural move, House members voted to give the bill its first reading. The measure would require women to have a face-to-face meeting with a medical professional at least 24 hours before having an abortion.
House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said the 72-11 vote in support of his motion was a strong signal to House Democratic leaders that rank-and-file members want action on the bill this year.
“We want an expedited vote on this bill, to get it done,” Hoover told reporters. “And whatever options we have to force a vote as soon as we can, that’s what we’ll consider.”
His motion amounted to a preliminary step, but the measure has other hurdles to clear. The bill hasn’t been referred to a committee and needs additional readings before it could be voted on by the full House.
“The vote today demands that the bill be sent to a committee which will give it a fair hearing, and therefore move it one step closer to a floor vote,” Hoover said.
The bill would update the state’s informed-consent law. It passed the GOP-led Senate on a 32-5 vote Tuesday. That sent it to the House, where Democrats for years have killed bills seeking to restrict access to abortion.
This time, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said more of his House Democratic colleagues have expressed support for the informed-consent measure than in the past.
“When you see that many people vote on a measure like that, it means that obviously the will of the body is that they want a chance to debate it and vote on it on the floor,” Stumbo told reporters Wednesday.
Kentucky law requires that women meet with a doctor prior to an abortion. But since then, many doctors have discussed the procedure with women on the phone. The new bill clarifies that patients must meet in person with doctors or other medical professionals designated by the doctors.
The bill’s critics include Derek Selznick of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. He has said it would result in “forced delay” causing “needless obstacles for women.”
House Democrats are clinging to a 50-46 majority, with four special elections looming in March that could determine who controls the chamber.
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said Hoover’s motion appeared to reflect “some flexing of muscle” by House Republicans to push their agenda.
Wayne said he considers abortion to be “an abomination,” but said he opposed the motion because there’s no emergency to justify circumventing the House’s normal process for reviewing bills.
Some Democrats sincerely believe the measure would help protect the unborn, Wayne said.
“There may be others that see this as a way to protect their seats,” he said.