Kentucky lawmakers push to put more restrictions on abortion

Demonstrators’ chants echoed through Kentucky’s Capitol as Republican lawmakers took up an abortion bill

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 13 April 2022 21:50
Abortion Kentucky
Abortion Kentucky

Demonstrators' chants echoed through Kentucky's Capitol on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers started pushing aside the Democratic governor's veto of a bill putting new restrictions on abortion — including banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

About two dozen abortion-rights supporters chanted “hands off our bodies” at the bottom of the stairs leading to the House chamber as the lawmakers debated the abortion measure. Both sides of the debate mentioned the demonstrators, whose voices could be heard by lawmakers as the emotional debate continued.

“It absolutely makes me sick to have to listen to what’s going on out there ... with all those chants,” Republican Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick said.

The House overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto on a 76-21 vote. That sent the measure to the Senate for a final vote to sweep aside the veto that could come later Wednesday. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.

The strict limits on abortion weren’t the only social issues legislation taken up by Republican lawmakers during the frenzied veto session. They also used their lopsided majorities to finish overriding a Beshear veto of their effort to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports. The override votes won by wide margins in both chambers over the objections of opponents.

“This bill is discrimination in search of children,” Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond said.

The measure would bar transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams matching their gender identity from sixth grade through college. Supporters say it would ensure girls and women compete against other “biological females.”

“The athlete wants a fair playing field," Republican Sen. Donald Douglas said. "They don’t care about all this other social stuff.”

Republican-led states increasingly have adopted such prohibitions on transgender girls or women, though the culture war-related bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. Opponents of the Kentucky measure predicted the measure also will end up in court.

“The fight won’t stop here,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

Meanwhile, opponents are expected to challenge the abortion measure in court on constitutional grounds, but that effort could hinge on deliberations already underway in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The proposed 15-week ban is modeled after a Mississippi law the Supreme Court is considering in a case that could dramatically limit abortion rights. By taking the preemptive action, the bill’s supporters say Kentucky’s stricter ban would be in place if the Mississippi law is upheld.

Kentucky law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Opponents condemned the bill for failing to exclude pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

“Those are violent crimes," Democratic Rep. Rachel Roberts said. "This bill forces those women to be violated again.”

Another key part of the bill would set regulations for the dispensing of abortion pills. It would require women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication.

That section of the bill is part of a nationwide push by anti-abortion groups to limit the ability of physicians to prescribe abortion pills by telemedicine, and comes in response to the increased use of pills rather than surgery to terminate early pregnancies.

About half of all abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures.

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