AP NEWS

Kentucky House passes 2 abortion measures

March 10, 2020 GMT
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Savannah Trebuna, of Louisville, Ky., an opponent of two anti-abortion bills in the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee, dressed as a character from the Handmaid's Tale during a hearing at the Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)
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Savannah Trebuna, of Louisville, Ky., an opponent of two anti-abortion bills in the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee, dressed as a character from the Handmaid's Tale during a hearing at the Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A proposal aimed at amending Kentucky’s Constitution to declare that it provides no right to abortion won passage in the state House Tuesday after an emotional debate that included a lawmaker speaking out against the bill while cradling her newborn baby.

The measure was among two abortion bills that cleared the Republican-led House. The other bill would expand the state attorney general’s authority to enforce abortion law.

The proposed ballot measure would add language to Kentucky’s Constitution to state that women don’t have a legal right to an abortion. The proposal is a preemptive step if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights nationwide decades ago is overturned, supporters said.

If that happens, it would put Kentucky in a position to “finally end the legal slaughter of unborn children” in the state, said Republican Rep. Joe Fischer, the proposal’s lead sponsor.

Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian denounced it as another “arrogant, patronizing piece of legislation” that demeans women.

“This shows a real lack of respect for women and their decisions,” she said.

The proposal cleared the House 71-21 and now goes to the GOP-dominated Senate. If it passes the legislature, it would go on this year’s November ballot for statewide voters to decide the issue.

Opponents said the measure fails to offer exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape or incest.

Fischer said future legislatures could decide whether to put such exceptions in state law.

During the long debate, several Democratic lawmakers read the testimony of abortion-rights supporters. It stemmed from a recent committee hearing when their testimony was cut off to allow a vote on the measure before all of them had a chance to speak out against the measure.

Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond held her newborn infant while speaking out against the bill. She said the proposal would take away access to abortion when a fetus could not survive. The proposal, she said, is aimed at “rights that are at grave risk of being taken away from women by men.”

The other bill would expand the power of the state’s anti-abortion attorney general, Republican Daniel Cameron, to regulate abortion facilities, including bringing civil penalties for violations. It passed 70-23 and goes to the Senate.

Under current law, the attorney general needs authorization from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services before taking such action against abortion clinics, said Republican Rep. Stan Lee, the bill’s lead sponsor. The proposal would give the attorney general independent authority on such matters, he said.

Marzian called it a “power grab piece of legislation.” Also speaking against the bill, Democratic Rep. Kelly Flood said: “Kentucky women do not need a special prosecutor for our health care.”

Lee replied: “I would say, statistically, probably at least half of these unborn babies that are killed, those little ladies need a special prosecutor.”

Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature in the 2017 session. Some of those laws are being challenged in courts, including one that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.