By BRUCE SCHREINER
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — It was quick, albeit unorthodox, when Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed an abortion-related bill into law Tuesday after a delegation of lawmakers presented it to him in his Capitol office. The measure updates the state’s informed consent law requiring women seeking abortions be told of medical risks and benefits at least 24 hours beforehand. The bill’s supporters say some doctors circumvented the requirement by having patients listen to a recorded message on the phone with no interaction. The bill gives patients and doctors the option of consultations in person or through real-time video. It amounted to a rare compromise on abortion legislation in Kentucky’s politically divided legislature.
“This is an extraordinary day,’’ Bevin said in signing his first bill into law since taking office. Before doing so, the Republican governor asked the legislators whether they preferred he sign the bill right then or wait until next week when abortion opponents are scheduled to gather for a Capitol rally.
“We could do this ceremonially at that time or we could do it for real at that time,’’ Bevin told the lawmakers. “You all tell me. Can it wait nine days? I’m going to defer to you.’’ Republican Sen. Julie Raque Adams, deferred to Bevin, noting he’s the governor.
It was soon decided he would sign it on the spot. The occasion wasn’t completely lacking in the typical pomp. After the signing, Bevin handed the pen to Adams as the measure’s lead sponsor, and then handed more pens to other lawmakers.
“I’m grateful for the chance to be able to sign meaningful legislation, and today was a day when a meaningful piece of legislation was put in front of me,’’ Bevin said in a later interview. A ceremonial bill signing is set for Feb. 11 during the Right to Life rally at the Capitol, said Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto.
Bevin said that event would allow for “the proper amount of pomp, circumstance and flourish’’ for the bill’s supporters. Several lawmakers said they could not recall such circumstances for a bill signing. Senate President Robert Stivers said the impromptu signing reflected the bill’s significance.
“We wanted to make that type of a statement with the (bill) sponsor delivering to the new governor his first bill for signature,’’ Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters.
A short time after the bill signing, the Senate plunged into another abortion debate, passing legislation aimed at putting Planned Parenthood clinics in Kentucky at the end of the line for family planning funds. The bill would set up a three-tier priority system for distributing federal family planning funds, with Planned Parenthood in the bottom category. The measure also states that no state or local funds would be given to clinics such as Planned Parenthood in the bottom category, Republican Sen. Max Wise said.
The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate on a 33-5 vote.
It now goes to the Democratic-led House.
“Planned Parenthood, the largest elective abortion provider in the U.S., has enriched itself with government funds for decades with its family planning services,’’ said Wise, the bill’s lead sponsor.
“Money, of course, is easily moved. And money earned in one sector of a business can be used to finance other sectors of the business.’’ Planned Parenthood said the bill punishes any clinic providing information about abortion services. “Providers must be able to talk to their patients about all services available to them. Gag rules hurt patients and tie the hands of providers,’’ Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Tamarra Wieder said.
The bill comes amid a dispute between Planned Parenthood and Bevin’s administration over whether Planned Parenthood was authorized to begin providing abortions at its Louisville clinic. Planned Parenthood released documents that show Kentucky officials, under former Gov. Steve Beshear, authorized it to begin providing abortions, The Courier-Journal reported. Bevin has accused Planned Parenthood of providing “illegal abortions,’’ saying it “brazenly set out to conduct abortions without a license.”