Beshear Vetoes Kentucky Bill for Failed Abortions

Andy Beshear speaks to the media during a press conference at the Muhammad Ali Center on Nov. 6, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

(CN) — Democratic Governor Andy Beshear vetoed a bill passed by Kentucky’s Republican-dominated Legislature that would have required doctors to provide life-saving care to infants who survive failed abortions.

Senate Bill 9 was sent to Beshear on April 15, the final day of Kentucky’s legislative session, and would also have granted Attorney General Daniel Cameron the authority to shutter abortion clinics during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Because the legislative session ended more than a week ago, the Republican-dominated Legislature won’t be able to override Beshear and force the bill into law.

Beshear has been focused on the spread of Covid-19 throughout the Bluegrass State and told reporters when the bill was passed he hadn’t even read it before it appeared on his desk.

His decision to veto the bill came late Friday afternoon, and he discussed it briefly during his daily Covid-19 briefing.

“I vetoed SB 9,” the governor said, “because a current state law already protects any child born alive in the way the bill would have.

“As I said in my veto message, I’m just not doing divisive issues right now. We’ve got to defeat this coronavirus … and we’ve got to have unity in this commonwealth.”

Beshear also said lawsuits would likely have followed the passage of the law, which would serve only to create “discord” in the state.

Unsurprisingly, the bill was supported by the Republican Cameron, who urged Beshear in a statement to sign it into law.

“As the chief law enforcement officer for the commonwealth,” he said, “our office must be able to act unencumbered and with clear legal authority when an abortion provider breaks the law. The actions of abortion providers in violating Governor Beshear’s ban on elective procedures during the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrate that Senate Bill 9 is both necessary and timely.”

Beshear prohibited all elective medical procedures in the state to limit exposure of patients to Covid-19, but allowed Kentucky’s abortion providers in Louisville to continue elective abortions.

Currently, the EMW Women’s Surgical Center and Planned Parenthood are the only abortion providers in the state, with Planned Parenthood operating under a provisional license.

Cameron is no stranger to the battle to limit access to abortions in Kentucky and currently has a case pending before the Sixth Circuit to reinstate a law that would require doctors to perform a “fetal demise procedure” before any second trimester abortion.

The case was argued by the AG’s office in January 2020 after it was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2019.

The Kentucky chapter of the ACLU released a statement after SB 9 was passed by the Legislature, and called it “an inflammatory bill designed to push misinformation.”

“This bill,” the statement continued, “is a blatant power grab that undermines health care experts and sets the stage 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.”

Field Organizer Jackie McGranahan released a statement after Beshear vetoed the bill.

“Senate Bill 9,” she said, “was a politically motivated bill that was passed in the final hours of the legislative session. Its impact would have been particularly cruel during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic by denying access to time-sensitive, essential abortion care.

“The government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will. We remain committed to resisting any effort to roll back Kentuckians’ access to necessary public health, particularly during this pandemic.”

Beshear is steadfast in his support of a woman’s right to choose, but also defended a Kentucky law that required women seeking abortions receive an ultrasound while acting as the state’s Attorney General.

The halt of elective surgeries in response to the spread of the coronavirus has resulted in a slew of lawsuits across the country that aim to keep abortion clinics open and fully operational during the pandemic.

To Kentucky’s north, Ohio sought to shutter clinics in an effort to preserve PPE for frontline medical professionals, but a federal judge ruled on Thursday that abortions will continue on a case-by-case basis.

Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee have all seen bans on abortion overturned in the past several weeks, while the Eighth Circuit upheld a temporary ban on surgical abortions in Arkansas on Wednesday.

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