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Kentucky bill aimed at banning dismemberment abortions advances to Senate

(Reuters/Adrees Latif)A pro-life activist holds a doll and banner while advocating his stance on abortion in this 2012 photo.

A bill that seeks to ban an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E) in Kentucky has cleared the state House and is now headed to the Senate.

State House Bill 454, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner (R-Florence), was passed by the House on Monday by a vote of 71–11.

The bill would "prohibit an abortion on a pregnant woman that will result in the bodily dismemberment, crushing, or human vivisection of the unborn child" after 11 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of medical emergencies.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describe D&E as an abortion that uses "sharp instrument techniques, but also suction and other instrumentation such as forceps, for evacuation."

Should HB 454 be signed into law, the only abortion procedures that will still be allowed in Kentucky will be induction abortion, which uses medication to induce labor, and dilation and curettage (D&C), which uses suction.

Wuchner noted that D&E, also called dismemberment abortions, is used in about 16 percent of abortions performed in the state. She said that her bill aims to codify "the state's valid interest in banning this brutal, intentional dismemberment procedure."

Under the proposed measure, an intentional violation would be considered as a Class D felony, with an exemption for the pregnant woman on whom the procedure is performed, the Ohio County Monitor reported.

Critics of the bill have complained that it would outlaw a common second-trimester abortion procedure. Wuchner, however, refuted assertions that the bill will create significant obstacles to women seeking abortions during the second trimester.

"Women in the commonwealth would not face substantial obstacles as several other procedures remain available for women who elect to terminate their pregnancy," she said, pointing out that other abortions methods can still be used "during the second trimester up to 20 weeks gestational age."

A spokesperson for the ACLU indicated that the measure may be challenged in court if it passes. The ACLU of Kentucky pointed out that similar laws have already been blocked by courts in the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas and Alabama.

Rep. Tom Burch (D-Louisville) predicted that defending the measure in court could cost the state about $1 million.

Brian Shoemaker, assistant executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, noted that the bill's wording is different from the measures that have run into legal problems in other states.

"We are stressing that this does not outlaw abortions. We are just saying that this particular brutal type of procedure for abortions should be banned," he said.

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