Kentucky Abortion Bill Leaves Women One Choice: To Conceive, Or Not To Conceive
Now that Republicans have control of both houses in the Kentucky legislature, they are wasting little time in proposing legislation that effectively bans abortion in the state after 20 weeks.
This restrictive abortion legislation is likely to pass
The ban, introduced in a bill in the state Senate on Tuesday, which is the first day of the legislative session, may be voted on this week, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. In the past, Kentucky lawmakers have blocked similar legislation, but now that Republicans are in the majority thanks to the November election, this is likely to change, The Huffington Post reports.
A similar 20-week abortion ban was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) last month, joining 17 other states that already have such restrictions in place. Few abortions take place after 20 weeks, and of those that do, most are usually due to serious medical complications.
And Kentucky’s GOP lawmakers don’t plan to leave it at that. They are also considering a separate bill that will bar any state and local funds from going to any organization that provides abortion services.
“The attempt to ban abortions at 20 weeks is cruel, dangerous, and poses a serious threat to women’s health,” Amber Duke, communications director of the ACLU of Kentucky noted in an email. “Legislation like SB5 ignores women’s individual circumstances and denies them the dignity to make personal, private decisions. A woman should make decisions about abortion, adoption and pregnancy with those she trusts, not with politicians.”
But as Talking Points Memo notes, not all Kentucky lawmakers feel that way.
Robert Stivers, the Republican president of the Kentucky Senate insisted that women have the “choice” of whether to conceive a child and “the legislature has its ability to determine” what course a pregnancy takes after that.
Stivers added that he’d like to see a ban on abortions even earlier than 20 weeks.
“This is my belief: there are two viable beings involved,” he told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “One had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not. Once conception starts, another life is involved, and the legislature has the ability to determine how that life proceeds.”
Viability can vary from one pregnancy to another, but generally, it’s understood to be between 24 and 28 weeks.
Related: Ohio Passes ‘Unconstitutional’ ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Bill Because Trump ‘Changed The Dynamic’
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood allege that Republicans are moving too quickly on the legislation. Both organizations held a press conference Wednesday in Frankfort, Kentucky’s state capitol, and denounced the measures.
“This legislative session measures are being advanced at unprecedented speed,” both said in a joint press release. “Things are moving so quickly, members of the public and press were unable to obtain copies of the 20-week abortion ban and ultrasound bills before they received a reading and were headed to committee for a vote.”
Stivers also told the newspaper that in the past, similar 20-week abortion bans hadn’t been passed by the state’s legislature, when Democrats controlled the state House of Representatives. Now that the House is Republican-controlled, Stivers is aware of the ramifications.
“I think we are very well aware of the issues as it relates to this bill and are ready and willing to proceed with this bill,” he said.
He said he also expects the ban to pass in the Senate this week, he told The Courier Journal.
The bill does include some exceptions — such as in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, and in instances that involve rape or incest, according to state Sen. Brandon Smith (R), the sponsor of the bill. And another proposal — one that requires women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion — was filed earlier this week by Kentucky lawmakers. The bill’s sponsor, House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) said there is “overwhelming sentiment” to pass that bill in the House.
In the aftermath of November’s elections, Republicans have been emboldened, said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
“Republican legislators in Kentucky have been straining against the restraint of sane Democratic House control for years while they watched their ultra-conservative brethren in other states pass these oppressive bills,” Fiddler told the Huffington Post in an email. “surely they’re aware of the hundreds of millions of dollars such measures have cost North Carolina. We’ll see if enough GOPers are willing to put the economic well-being of the state above their hateful ideological agenda.”
Fasten your seatbelt if you live in Kentucky. It’s going to be a long four years.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images