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Anti-abortion constitutional proposal advances in Kentucky

February 26, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House passed a measure Thursday that’s aimed at adding language to the state constitution to ensure it doesn’t offer protections for abortion rights.

The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the Republican-led House on a 76-20 vote after a long and impassioned debate. The measure now goes to the Senate.

The proposal, if approved by voters, would amend Kentucky’s constitution to declare that it provides no right to abortion. An abortion-rights group said Thursday that the proposed constitutional change was a preemptive move to ban abortions in Kentucky if the Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights nationwide decades ago is ever overturned.

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A leading supporter of the proposal described it as an important follow-up to anti-abortion laws enacted since Republicans took full control of the state legislature several years ago.

Such a constitutional prohibition would prevent any court ruling that might “invent a state constitutional right to abortion, and thereby invalidate our state laws protecting unborn children,” said Republican Rep. Joseph Fischer, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Opponents said it continued the legislature’s intrusion into the personal decisions of women.

“Well here we go again, legislating health care from our seats at the General Assembly,” said Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian.

Democrat Rep. Pamela Stevenson said: “It is not our position to dictate to what a woman and a doctor decide is right. Otherwise, let me come to your doctor appointments.”

Opponents also faulted the anti-abortion measure for failing to provide exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

The bill’s supporters said Kentucky voters should get to decide the issue. The measure would eventually be placed on the statewide ballot if it passes the legislature.

“What are you afraid of?” Republican Rep. Matt Lockett said to the bill’s opponents. “This is not a bill to outlaw abortion. This is not a bill that restricts abortion. This is a bill that leaves it up to the voters of the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

In condemning the House vote, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky said the proposed constitutional change would “pave the way for a total ban on safe and legal abortion” in Kentucky if the landmark Roe v. Wade decision were to be overturned.

Lawmakers in conservative states have been pushing new abortion restrictions, hoping a case that reaches the U.S. Supreme Court could be successful with the addition of three conservative justices nominated by former President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Kentucky lawmakers gave the state’s anti-abortion attorney general new authority to regulate abortion clinics when they overrode the governor’s veto of the measure. That measure gives Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron the power to seek civil and criminal penalties for any violation of Kentucky’s abortion laws.

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The constitutional amendment legislation is House Bill 91.