Politics & Government

Kentucky’s GOP majorities are pushing multiple abortion bills. Here’s what they’d do.

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With Republicans holding overwhelming majorities in the Kentucky General Assembly for their third consecutive session, lawmakers this winter have filed a half-dozen bills to restrict access to abortion.

They are:

House Bill 5, by state Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, R-Belton, would ban abortion in Kentucky for women seeking to end pregnancies because of their unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin or disability detected by prenatal screening, such as Down syndrome or disfigurement. The House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection approved the bill Feb. 20 and sent it to the full House, where it awaits further action.

House Bill 148, by state Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, would ban abortion in Kentucky if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the procedure. The House passed it 69-to-20 on Feb. 15. It’s assigned to the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

Senate Bill 9, by state Sen. Matt Castlen, R-Owensboro, would ban abortion in Kentucky after the presence of a fetal heartbeat, which doctors say can be detected about six weeks into pregnancy. The Senate passed it 31-to-6 on Feb. 14. It’s now assigned to the House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. House Bill 100, which has not moved so far, has similar language.

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State Sen. Matt Castlen LRC Public Information Office

Senate Bill 50, by state Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, originally would have required doctors to report all prescriptions for abortion drugs to the state’s Vital Statistics Branch, which will publish an annual report online showing how many prescriptions were written. The Senate voted 30-to-6 on Jan. 11 to pass that version and send it to the House.

On Feb. 21, the House Health and Family Services Committee added language to SB 50 requiring doctors to tell patients seeking a medically induced abortion that the procedure could be reversed — a controversial claim the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has rejected, based on research. The amended bill awaits action in the full House.

Senate Bill 227 by state Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would require a doctor performing an abortion to take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born alive infant. It has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection.

While those bills are moving at the Capitol, several of Kentucky’s recently enacted abortion retractions have been blocked by federal courts.

Last November, a federal district judge in Louisville heard arguments in the ACLU’s challenge to the state’s ban on a common form of abortion in Kentucky for women who are 11 weeks or more pregnant, a procedure called “dilation and evacuation.”

In another case, Gov. Matt Bevin has appealed the ACLU’s successful challenge to his insistence that Kentucky’s sole remaining abortion clinic, in Louisville, have transfer agreements in place with a hospital and an ambulance service in case of emergencies.

Also on appeal is the ACLU’s successful challenge of a Kentucky law requiring doctors to show and describe an ultrasound to pregnant women before performing an abortion.

John Cheves is a government accountability reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader. He joined the Herald-Leader in 1997 and previously worked in its Washington and Frankfort bureaus and covered the courthouse beat.

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