Pro-life Kentucky leaders react to decision on Texas heartbeat bill

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – While the legal battle over abortion in Texas reached a surprising climax with the split decision of the Supreme Court late Wednesday, leaders in the Kentucky pro-life community saw the preliminary victory as a step in the right direction — for both the United States and the commonwealth.

Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-St. Thomas, called the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision an “important procedural victory.”

“It’s a limited decision because it only impacts an injunction and how that injunction would be granted," he said. "Right now, the private cause of action to enforce the heartbeat bill is still available for any private citizen of Texas to file suit and to get an injunction against the abortion provider.” 

Kentucky’s heartbeat bill is currently suspended under legal challenges more two years after being passed by the General Assembly and signed by former Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019.

“While our own heartbeat bill remains tied up in litigation, we could consider adopting some of the Texas language when we return to Frankfort next session,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton. “I think the 5-4 decision by the Court also arguably signals what each of the justices are willing to do on the important issue of protecting the unborn, though I would caution against relying on this decision alone as a barometer for their positions.”

The Supreme Court will take up the issue of abortion again this fall when they review Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, a case that could threaten Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to the states.

House Bill 91, a proposed constitutional amendment stating there is no right to abortion in Kentucky, will be on the ballot in November 2022 and could directly impact access to abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

“(The Court’s decision) does not directly impact our constitutional amendment, but it gives some blueprint once our Supreme Court is not available to enforce or to create an abortion right,” Fischer explained. “Then the General Assembly is free to fashion its own remedies to prohibit abortion in Kentucky. That’s what’s important about this case.”

“Pro-life organizations and state legislatures will be reflecting on their own laws as they approach session,” said Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life. “We are all eager to put an end to the tragedy of the destruction of human life and to restore the human rights of the unborn child.”

Echoing other pro-life leaders, Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said that the decision in Texas should be an encouragement.

“I am hearing reports that this law will immediately eliminate 85 to 90% of legalized abortions in the state. I believe this news will strengthen Kentucky Baptists to encourage our elected leaders to see if the action of Texas legislators can be duplicated in Kentucky,” Gray said. “While we rejoice over this news in Texas, we continue to pray and work for the day when the human rights atrocity of legalized abortion will be abolished.”

While the situation in Texas remains several states removed from the commonwealth, Westerfield and Fischer agreed the precedence set by the Supreme Court could one day impact the state of abortion in Kentucky.

“Whether by contributing to crisis pregnancy centers and similar organizations, or by voting in the halls of Frankfort, or by fighting in the various courts of law where our efforts are so often challenged, Kentuckians should care because victories for protecting life are still possible,” Westerfield said.

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