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Kentucky lawmakers advance 'abortion reversal' proposal

Kentucky State Capitol Building
Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-21 19:00:22-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Abortion opponents in Kentucky expanded their aggressive legislative agenda on Thursday by unveiling a proposal that would require abortion providers to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the procedure can be reversed.

The House Health and Family Services Committee inserted the proposal into a bill dealing with requirements for doctors or clinics to report medication-induced abortions to the state. The expanded measure won committee approval, sending it to the Republican-led House.

Supporters of the new language said it wouldn't restrict abortion access but would ensure that women are fully informed of their options with "abortion reversal" counseling. The new proposal was endorsed by the lead sponsor of the original bill, Republican Sen. Robby Mills.

"Once you take that (abortion) pill, sometimes they feel like 'I've made this mistake. It's done,'" he said. "We think it's important for them to realize it's not done and there are options."

Opponents of the new proposal countered that it would intrude into doctor-patient relationships and promote a medically unproven reversal procedure.

Kate Miller with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky told the panel that her organization would seriously consider challenging the new language in court.

Miller said the new proposal undermines "the ethical responsibilities of doctors and provides misleading and false information" to patients.

The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research organization, says some states have begun to require that abortion counseling include the "unverified claim that medication abortion can be 'reversed'" if a woman is given a high dose of progesterone. The organization says there's no medical evidence to support the claim and no data on the safety of the "unproven treatment."

In Kentucky, the "abortion reversal" language becomes the latest of several proposals backed by anti-abortion lawmakers to emerge in this year's legislative session.

The highest-profile bill would ban most abortions in Kentucky once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Another would ban most abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the procedure nationwide. Another would ban abortions if the woman is seeking one because of the race, gender or disability of the fetus.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have aggressively pushed to restrict abortion since the GOP took total control of the legislature in 2017. The state already is defending three abortion-related laws in federal court in legal fights with the ACLU and the state's last abortion clinic.

The emergence of the "abortion reversal" proposal caught abortion-rights supporters by surprise. Miller urged the panel to take more time to review the language.

GOP Rep. Robert Goforth, a staunch abortion opponent who is running for governor this year, pushed back against her threat of a potential lawsuit if the language becomes law.

"It does not restrict abortion," he said. "It's merely providing education. ... It may save a life by providing that proper education."

Voting against the bill, Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian said it was another attempt by anti-abortion lawmakers to interfere with personal medical decisions.

"We do way too much meddling with women's uteruses," she said.

If the expanded bill passes the House, it would return to the GOP-run Senate, which would consider whether to accept the new "abortion reversal" language.


The legislation is Senate Bill 50.