Kentucky GOP tries to rush a bill to ban all abortion


Republicans in the state are pushing for the ban right as the Supreme Court is reviewing a case that could gut abortion access nationwide.

Republicans in Kentucky, who fully control the state Legislature as of 2017, are working hard at making it difficult for people to obtain abortions.

Their latest effort is a proposal to amend the state's constitution to prohibit abortion entirely should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade

The bill has passed through a House committee in late February and is set to move to the full House for a vote.

If the measure passes Kentucky's General Assembly, it would appear on the ballot in November and would read: "To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion." 

Even though the bill represents a major change to existing law, Republicans hurried through the debate in committee, blocking some opponents from testifying against the bill.

Democratic House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins said it was "very disrespectful to make such broad policy within a committee in 10 minutes." The Kentucky Legislature, she noted, is only midway through its 2020 session, so such speed is unnecessary. 

GOP Rep. Joe Fischer, along with 36 other House Republicans, sponsored the bill. This is the fourth time in 20 years that Fischer has tried to get this measure on the ballot.  

In the past, Fischer has tried to expand domestic violence protections to include abortion, saying "[t]he most brutal form of domestic violence is the violence against unborn children." 

Kentucky's legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, so there's a real chance this could move forward to the ballot.

Additionally, Fischer and other legislators are likely heartened by Trump's extremely anti-abortion picks for the Supreme Court — and the fact that court recently heard a case that could gut abortion access nationwide. 

The attempt to enshrine anti-abortion thinking into the state's constitution isn't the only way in which Kentucky legislators are attacking abortion rights.

Including the proposed constitutional amendment, the Kentucky legislature is considering seven measures to restrict abortion during this legislative session.

This includes an unnecessary "born alive" abortion bill that purports to penalize doctors who don't care for newborn infants. Given that murder is already illegal in Kentucky and everywhere else, it's a solution in search of a problem. 

Kentucky is also considering a conscience bill, which would allow medical practitioners to refuse to provide abortion and birth-control related services if they morally oppose the practice.

The bill defines "medical practitioners" broadly to include "any person or individual who may be or is asked to participate in a healthcare service," including nursing home employees, pharmacists, medical researches, lab technicians, and more. 

Republican legislators are pushing another bill that would require the parent(s) of a miscarried or aborted fetus to make arrangements to dispose of the remains. The bill would even charge the parents if they don't choose to use the normal procedure by which the hospital or clinic would normally use. 

If these laws were to pass, they would join Kentucky's other restrictive anti-abortion measures, such as a ban on telemedicine, forced "counseling" designed to dissuade people from having abortions, a 24-hour waiting period, and a parental consent law.

After throwing up all these roadblocks to obtaining an abortion, Kentucky also bars abortion after 20 weeks except in cases of a severe threat to the life or health of the mother. 

The state also recently passed an incredibly invasive forced ultrasound law.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to hear a challenge to that law. And in 2019, the state passed four new anti-abortion laws, including a law that will force doctors to give their patients incorrect medical information about medication abortions. 

There is currently only one clinic in the state where people can obtain an abortion, though a Planned Parenthood clinic in Louisville is set to reopen later this year. 

The restrictions make it hard for people to obtain an abortion in the state and may push some to seek abortions later in pregnancy, perhaps in another state.

States with parental consent laws see a delay in access to care. Forcing people to get an ultrasound delays access to care. A waiting period delays access to care, and barring telemedicine for abortions means people in rural parts of the state may lack access entirely.

If a person is past the 20th week of their pregnancy, they must travel out of state to obtain an abortion, drastically increasing the cost of and the time for the procedure. 

Lack of access is certainly the goal of this latest piece of legislation, which would ban all abortions, period, if Roe is overturned at the federal level.

While that day may not come, an amendment to the constitution at the state level sends the message that the state doesn't support people who need reproductive health care and may even engender confusion as to whether abortion remains legal in the state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.