Saturday, January 19, 2002

Bill that protects fetuses in works

Legislators predict it will become law

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer contributor

        FRANKFORT — Northern Kentucky legislators are confident that at least one fetal protection bill will become law by the end of the 2002 session.

        But some opponents say they'll fight it and at least two others, calling them anti-abortion bills.

        Reps. Tom Kerr, D-Taylor Mill, and Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, are sponsoring legislation that would allow mothers-to-be or members of the family of a fetus to seek civil damages in the event of its wrongful death.

        Proponents say the bill would allow a woman whose pregnancy was terminated because of a car wreck, for instance, to sue the driver at fault.

        Mr. Fischer said he expects the civil damages bill to pass the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate this year.

        Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, who supports legalized abortion, said it is one of the efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade. She vowed to make sure such proposals never become law.

        “I firmly believe it is a vehicle to define life at the moment of fertilization,” she said. “I think that's incredibly dangerous and poor public policy.”

        Mr. Fischer said the bills are not a direct attempt to try to outlaw abortion. The bill is necessary, he said, because earlier court rulings have found that there can be no recovering damages if a child was not yet viable and living outside the womb at the time of the damage.

        “We are trying to protect all innocent human life to the extent the Constitution will allow it,” he said.

        House majority leader Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, agreed. “A lot of people, including myself, believe there ought to be adequate compensation for the loss of a life.”

        Area lawmakers, including Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, and Sen. Katie Stine, R-Fort Thomas, have sponsored and supported similar bills in past sessions, but met opposition.

        Legislators aren't as optimistic that two related bills will make it through the General Assembly.

        Sens. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, and Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park, are sponsoring a fetal homicide bill, under which anyone causing the death of an unborn child by harming the mother could be charged with murder.

        And they're behind a pharmacist's “conscientious objection” bill, which would protect pharmacists' jobs if they refuse to fill prescriptions for certain contraceptives, such as RU486, known as the “morning after” pill.


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