Kentucky governor strikes down GOP's attacks on abortion during pandemic

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Conservatives in Kentucky couldn't get their act together as they tried to push several new abortion restrictions through the state Legislature.

In Kentucky, Republicans have been working hard to decrease the power of the state's Democratic governor, Andy Beshear.

Notably, they recently tried to take away his power to regulate abortion providers and give it to the state's anti-abortion attorney general, Daniel Cameron. 

However, the GOP miscalculated the timing with this effort to restrict abortion by passing the bill too late in the 2020 legislative session to override any veto from Beshear, who quashed the bill when it reached his desk.

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It's a rare bit of good news for abortion rights in a state where the procedure is already very difficult to obtain. Indeed, Kentucky already bans abortions past 20 weeks in almost all circumstances. 

Kentucky is also one of several states where conservatives tried to use the pandemic to ban abortions and to incorrectly define abortion as "elective" despite it being a time-sensitive procedure. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has also recognized that "induced abortion is an essential component of women's health care." 

Bans like those being pushed by Republican politicians during the pandemic often force people to have abortions later than they would like, and with time restrictions like those already found in Kentucky, they could even push the procedure entirely out of reach for many in the state.

Had Kentucky succeeded in passing an abortion ban during the pandemic, people would have been forced to drive over 50% farther in order to obtain an abortion, according to a recent study. Longer trips can result in substantially increased costs to patients, as well, as they may need to pay for travel and lodging in a neighboring state because that state required mandatory in-person counseling. 

It's also not as simple as merely traveling. The Guttmacher Institute noted that the problems caused by the bans would be "further compounded" if the closest alternative state required in-person counseling, which can require multiple trips prior to obtaining an abortion, or if the nearby state has few abortion providers itself and can't take more patients. 

The Kentucky GOP also tried to get "born alive" legislation passed in the recent bill as part of a campaign opposing later abortions. Conservatives have been tightly focused on getting these sorts of bills passed at both the state and federal levels in spite of the fact these bills are superfluous, as existing laws would already protect children, and all humans, from being harmed by doctors.

Beshear noted this when he vetoed the bill, saying current law already protects babies in that circumstance, rendering the law unnecessary. 

Wyoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon has also pushed back against unnecessary "born-alive" bills. When vetoing Wyoming's bill, Gordon said that, "Laws already in place protect children from being denied lifesaving care."

Advocates say "born alive" bills aren't really about protecting anyone. Instead, they're about, as Dr. Kristyn Brandi with Physicians for Reproductive Health, explained, vilifying providers and patients "to push a false narrative about abortion later in pregnancy." 

Beshear's veto is a rare piece of good news for abortion rights at a time when conservatives in many states are using a public health crisis to try to launch attacks.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.