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Abortion Rights and Restrictions

Renee Shaw talks with guests about abortion rights and restrictions. Guests include: Addia Wuchner, executive director, Kentucky Right to Life; Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood of Indiana & Kentucky; State Rep. Nancy Tate, a Republican from Brandenburg; State Rep. Attica Scott, a Democrat from Louisville; and others.
Season 28 Episode 34 Length 56:33 Premiere: 11/08/21


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
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Renee Shaw is Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Lawmakers and Advocates Debate Legislation Set to Add New Limits on Abortion

While abortion restrictions in multiple states face legal challenges, lawmakers in the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly session are expected to consider an omnibus bill that could place new limits on abortions in the commonwealth.

The legislation, although not yet public, is expected to include provisions that make it harder for minors to get an abortion and to limit access to mail-order abortion medications. It would also address abortion reversal procedures, disposal of fetal remains, and protections for health care providers who decline to perform abortions.

Rep. Nancy Tate (R-Brandenburg) says her bill, which could carry the name Humanity in Health Care Act, is a compilation of multiple measures proposed during the 2021 session and is, in part, a response to a recent increase in abortion procedures in the commonwealth. She says the state usually averages about 3,000 abortions a year, but in 2020, that number jumped to more than 4,000. Many of those, she says, were performed on minors.

“We want to make sure that these minors, whenever they have abortions, that their parents consent, that their parents are aware,” says Tate.

While Kentucky law already requires parental consent for minors seeking an abortion, Tate’s proposal would require identification of the adult giving the consent to ensure that he or she is the parent. The medical provider would also have to sign an affidavit confirming they obtained the proper consent. Doctors who knowingly perform an abortion on a minor without parental consent would face a Class D felony charge.

Kentucky Right to Life Executive Director Addia Wuchner says the certifications are meant to protect young girls from sex traffickers or other adults who may try to pose as the child’s parent. But Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says the provision will only make it harder for marginalized individuals to get the care they seek.

“It’s a legal hurdle for parents supporting their children getting an abortion that ultimately make accessing abortion, full stop, not available to individuals in the commonwealth,” says Wieder.

Minors who fear getting their parents’ consent can seek court approval to have the procedure. Wieder says the so-called judicial bypass option already exists in Kentucky, but Tate’s measure would require the court to determine if the child seeking an abortion is credible, mentally capable, and aware of the implications of her decision.

New Requirements on Chemical Abortions

The proposed omnibus bill, which Tate and Wuchner previewed for a legislative committee in late October, would also require that so-called abortion pills be dispensed only in-person by doctors, not ordered by mail for unsupervised home use. Wuchner says the two-step chemical abortion process involves a progesterone pill that cuts off the blood supply and hormones to the fetus, and a second pill that causes the women to expel the fetus. About half of the abortions in Kentucky are chemical abortions (also known as medical abortions), while the other half are surgical procedures.

Wieder says current Kentucky law requires the pills to be dispensed at one of the state’s two abortion clinics. The first pill is taken at the office, and the second one is taken at home. She says Planned Parenthood doctors then follow up with their patients to ensure that the woman has safely passed all the products of conception.

“Medication abortion is 99 percent safe and effective,” says Wieder. “It’s so safe, in fact, that the FDA had loosened restrictions during COVID to make it more accessible to people.”

Earlier this year the Biden Administration temporarily lifted the restriction that the pills only be dispensed in person. Now doctors in some states can prescribe the pills via telemedicine and have them delivered by mail.

Tate contends that thousands of women have died taking abortion pills. She fears removing more direct medical supervision and sourcing pills on the internet or through the mail will put women at greater risk

“Chemical abortions are not safe,” says Tate. “They’re actually proven to be four times more dangerous for the mother than the surgical abortions.”

During COVID, health officials in the United Kingdom also have made abortion pills available by mail, according to Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel at Americans United for Life. She says paramedics there reported a spike in women needing emergency care as a result of that change.

“We need to learn from those mistakes, not make them ourselves,” says Glenn.

The proposed legislation also requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to provide information about providers who offer what’s known as an abortion reversal pill. That medication, essentially a massive dose of progesterone, can halt a chemical abortion after the first stage of the process. Doctors are already required to tell patients that a reversal process is possible in case the woman changes her mind.

Glenn and Wuchner say the progesterone treatment is not new: it is used for some cancer patients and for women with fertility problems.

But Weider says the federal Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists do not support the practice of chemical abortion reversal.

“It’s actually been called junk science,” says Wieder, “so the fact that we already having to tell patients this when it’s is not safe is problematic enough.”

Protecting Women’s Health or Restricting Women’s Rights

Another provision addresses the disposal of fetal remains. Tate says within 24 hours of the procedure, the health care provider must inform the patient of what their options are for burying or cremating the remains. She says cremations must be done individually, not as part of larger batch of tissue, and the ashes given to the parents. Tate says the requirement stems from personal experience: She had three miscarriages, and she says she doesn’t know what happened to any of the remains.

“Those are babies, and so they should be treated with dignity,” says Tate.

As for the costs associated with the requirement, Tate says many funeral homes will provide such services free of charge. If none are available, she says the parents would be responsible for cremation and/or burial expenses.

Wieder says if the woman wants the remains, she should get them, but she contends that requiring the patient to take the remains only serves to shame and stigmatize the woman. State Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville) adds that the provision is unnecessary since the state already regulates the disposal of medical tissue.

“If we’re going to force people to pay for something that they can’t afford, we’re adding to keeping people in poverty,” says Scott.

The omnibus bill would also provide protections for medical personnel who for reasons of personal conscience decline to perform or participate in abortion procedures, and allows for civil actions against an employer that terminates an employee for not providing an abortion. The proposed legislation would also prevent any public funds in the state from going to entities that perform abortions or even offer counseling about them.

Opponents of the proposed bill argue it is unnecessary given the restrictions already placed on abortion in the commonwealth. They also contend it is a further attack on a women’s right to access the full range of reproductive health services.

“So much of what I’m hearing about this bill… seems to be searching for a problem that doesn’t exist,” says ACLU of Kentucky attorney Heather Gatnarek. “We have a standard in this country and people are free to make these decisions for themselves, and that right is at risk.”

Instead of trying to control a woman’s body, Scott says her fellow lawmakers should tackle issues like poverty arising from medical care debts and the state’s alarmingly high maternal mortality rates, especially among Black women. She says Democrats have proposed a range of bills on those topics, but she says the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate won’t bring them up for debate or a vote.

“These are the issues that we should be addressing rather than forcing people to give birth against their will.” says Scott.

Tate and Glenn say they wants to address many of the same women’s health issues as Scott, but not at the expense of the life of an unborn child.

“We agree on so much and abortion really clouds that conversation because it takes medicine from a healing profession to a killing profession,” says Glenn.

As a former state lawmaker and a former OB nurse, Wuchner says supporters of this legislation have no intent to shame women who seek abortions. She says they want to protect women’s health from a procedure they see as dangerous and immoral.

“While we may disagree with the termination of a pregnancy, we still want it to be safe,” says Wuchner.

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Season 28 Episodes

City and County Issues

S28 E38 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/13/21

Compensating College Athletes: Name, Image and Likeness

S28 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/22/21

Trends in State and National Politics

S28 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 11/15/21

Abortion Rights and Restrictions

S28 E34 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/08/21

Kentucky's Social Services System

S28 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/01/21

School Choice in the Commonwealth

S28 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/25/21

Historical Horse Racing: A Growing Pastime in Kentucky

S28 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/11/21

New Developments and the Unknowns of COVID-19

S28 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/04/21

COVID and the Classroom

S28 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/27/21

Remembering 9/11, 20 Years Later

S28 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/13/21

Kentucky's Response to COVID-19

S28 E27 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 08/30/21

Discussing the Surge of COVID-19 Cases in Kentucky

S28 E26 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 08/23/21

Fancy Farm Preview and State Politics

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Back-To-School Issues in Kentucky

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Childcare Challenges

S28 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/19/21

The Urban-Rural Divide in Kentucky

S28 E22 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 07/12/21

Work Shifts: Kentucky's Labor Shortage and Hiring Challenges

S28 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/28/21

Public Infrastructure: What Kentucky Needs

S28 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/21/21

Debating Critical Race Theory

S28 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/14/21

Kentucky's Rebound From COVID-19

S28 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/07/21

Jobs and the Economy

S28 E16 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/17/21

The Future of Policing in America

S28 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/10/21

President Biden's First 100 Days

S28 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/03/21

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S28 E13 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/26/21

Voting Rights and Election Laws

S28 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/20/21

The 2021 General Assembly: Debating Major Legislation

S28 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/12/21

Wrapping Up the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E10 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/29/21

School Choice in Kentucky

S28 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/22/21

No-Knock Warrants

S28 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/15/21

Debating Legislative Priorities in the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/08/21

Proposed Legislation to Modify Kentucky Teachers' Pensions

S28 E6 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/22/21

Debating Historical Horse Racing Legislation

S28 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/08/21

New Lawmakers in the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly

S28 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/01/21

A Nation Divided

S28 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/18/21

Recapping the Start of the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E2 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/11/21

Previewing the 2021 General Assembly

S28 E1 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/04/21

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