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Ky. legislature drops anti-abortion activist provision from bipartisan ‘momnibus’ bill

Republican Rep. Kim Moser gestures to a broad coalition of women in the legislature who are in support of her legislation to support pregnant women in Kentucky.
Sylvia Goodman
/
LPM
GOP Rep. Kim Moser stood with a broad coalition of women in the legislature to introduce their maternal health bill in January.

Republicans scrapped a contentious change to the otherwise broadly supported “momnibus” bill on Monday. That cleared its path to becoming law.

Kentucky’s so-called “momnibus” bill to expand health care access for pregnant patients and new mothers was introduced in January and given priority status by Republican leadership.

It would make widely supported policy changes, such as ensuring patients can sign up for health insurance coverage when they become pregnant. It also would formally establish the Kentucky Lifeline for Moms to run a telephone hotline that health care providers can contact if they have a patient who would benefit from receiving mental health services.

But its progress through the state legislature got rocky last month when a Senate committee agreed to add language from a bill that would require hospitals and other providers to refer patients with nonviable pregnancies to perinatal palliative care programs that provide support and services if they carry to term.

The perinatal palliative care bill’s proponents include Addia Wuchner of the anti-abortion group Kentucky Right to Life, who previously said it’s intended to give women options other than terminating their pregnancy.

Democrats walked out of a hearing over that proposal in early March, calling it a “slap in the face” to women who’ve experienced a nonviable pregnancy. And other Democratic lawmakers criticized the addition of this controversial proposal to the “momnibus” bill, which grew out of a working group of Democratic and Republican women.

The “momnibus” bill didn’t come up for a vote by the full Senate after the change was made. And the legislature had one more chance to get it passed Monday, the final day of its 2024 session.

When lawmakers returned for their last day of lawmaking, they made a new bid — with plenty of cross-party support — to pass the “momnibus” bill.

The House of Representatives agreed to add the earlier “momnibus” bill — without the perinatal palliative care proposal — to Senate Bill 74. That’s another bipartisan bill that would help establish separate review teams within the state government to analyze data on child and maternal deaths.

Democratic Rep. Lindsey Burke from Lexington thanked the “momnibus” bill’s lead sponsor, GOP state Rep. Kim Moser of Taylor Mill, during Tuesday’s House vote.

“I have never been more delighted, proud or excited to vote for any single piece of legislation,” Burke said. “It is a gift to the families of the Commonwealth. I thank her for her hard work.”

Democratic Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong of Louisville and Republican Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe of Lexington likewise praised Moser for bringing together a group of women from the House and Senate to figure out how they could help address maternal mortality and related problems.

“As a member of the working group this summer, I thought it was fantastic to have a Kentucky-crafted legislation that looked at, really, solutions for us and not other states,” Mays Bledsoe said. “And to have a lot of perspectives around the table that often weren’t the same, and work together to find something that worked for us — that we could all agree on.”

The updated SB 74 easily passed the House in a 91-1 vote. Then the Senate followed suit, in a 29-5 vote.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to sign SB 74 into law.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.
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