Lawmakers stripping Kentucky women of reproductive choices

Opponents of new abortion restrictions rally in Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda.
Opponents of new abortion restrictions rally in Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda. Jack Brammer

Kentuckians who have money — including the wives, daughters and girlfriends of legislators — will never lose access to safe abortions because they can afford to travel to less restrictive states, if Republicans succeed in shutting down Kentucky’s last and only provider of legal abortions.

It’s lower-income women and their families who suffer when politicians intrude into decisions that should be personal and private.

That injustice seems not to bother Gov. Matt Bevin and the Republicans who control the legislature in a state where 1 in 4 children live in poverty. Lawmakers are rushing through bills aimed at intimidating abortion providers and putting up more barriers to reproductive choice.

Supporters of this year’s anti-abortion legislation also have no compunctions about spreading emotional claims that lack a basis in science or fact.

Republicans are out not just to ban abortions beyond the 20th week of pregnancy and harshly penalize abortion providers who fail to broadcast a fetal heartbeat to their patients, but the GOP is also trying to create new reasons for suing or suspending the medical licenses of physicians who perform abortions.

Only 1 percent of abortions occur more than 20 weeks into a pregnancy, and they result from complications that defy the legislature’s reproductive straitjacket. A Lexington woman who is 14 weeks pregnant testified that she recently learned of complications in her pregnancy. If Senate Bill 5 becomes law, she could be “forced to carry a dead fetus inside of me for the next four months.” The bill also has no exemptions for rape, incest or mental illness.

Senate President Robert Stivers seems to view parenthood as a just punishment for women who “had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not.”

But some Kentucky women could lose even the limited choice that Stivers would permit them if another Republican bill succeeds in defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides contraceptives to thousands of Kentuckians.