FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – On the last day of this year’s General Assembly session, state lawmakers amended a bill that places the abortion ball squarely in Gov. Andy Beshear’s court.
Lawmakers late Wednesday night approved a measure to give Attorney General Daniel Cameron the authority to stop abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.
An amended version of Senate Bill 9, which includes portions of House Bill 451, says abortion is an elective medical procedure, which Beshear banned while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to curtail use of personal protective equipment and slow the disease’s spread.
The legislation gives Cameron the power to take civil or criminal action against any abortion facility and gives him authority to seek injunctive relief for violations of emergency orders issued by the governor banning elective medical procedures, including but not limited to abortions.
"As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the Commonwealth, our office must be able to act unencumbered and with clear legal authority when an abortion provider breaks the law," Cameron said in a statement. "The actions of abortion providers in violating Governor Beshear's ban on elective procedures during the COVIC-19 pandemic demonstrate that Senate Bill 9 is both necessary and timely.
"Given the urgent need for Senate Bill 9, I hope that Goverenor Beshear will sign it into law immediately. With each daay that passes, elective abortions continue, using scarce medical resources that are needed to fight this pandemic and potentially exposing more Kentuckians to COVID-19."
The bill also makes it a Class D felony for a provider not to attempt saving the life of an infant when her or she is “born alive” following a botched abortion.
“I am grateful for Gov. Beshear’s efforts to protect life in Kentucky during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “I hope his plans will also make room for the protection of the life of the unborn. Respect for life from the cradle to the grave is a consistent pro-life position.”
The KBC represents more than 750,000 Southern Baptists in Kentucky and 2,360 churches. Gray said abortion was a Christian issue long before it became a political issue.
“Those of us who believe life begins in the womb cannot keep silent while abortion remains legal in the state we love,” he said. “Proverbs 31:9 directs those of us in leadership to, ‘Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.’ We must work together not only to protect life through practicing safe social distancing, but also for protecting the life of the unborn.”
Beshear has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to consider it. Lawmakers cannot override the veto because the session has ended. He didn't tip his hand on Thursday as to what he will decide.
“I haven’t read it," Beshear told reporters. “I don’t have any decision on it yet. I’ve been working solely on the coronavirus. I will look at it at some point within the period of time that I have for vetoes.”
In the past, Beshear said he supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade to let a woman choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
Beshear supports abortion rights but backs “reasonable restrictions,” especially on late-term procedures.
The ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky are encouraging Beshear to veto the legislation, calling it in a press release a “blatant power grab that undermines health care experts and sets the state for anti-abortion politicians and their allies to work in tandem to make it harder for Kentuckians to access reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion.”
They said the measure would send Cameron regulatory powers now held by health experts at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The Family Foundation of Kentucky applauded the measure and is calling for Kentuckians to join them in signing a petition that will be sent to Gov. Beshear.
“SB 9 affirms that our Commonwealth wants to protect all babies,” the Family Foundation of Kentucky said in a release. “Our Kentucky Constitution created a fairly weak Attorney General’s office, but the HB portion bolters the AG’s authority regarding the investigation of the state’s abortion industry.”