The Republican-controlled Kentucky state legislature on Wednesday overrode a barrage of vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, including a veto of a pro-life law banning abortions after 15 weeks.
With their legislative supermajority, GOP lawmakers passed nearly two dozen bills the governor had opposed, including the new abortion restrictions, a fairness in women’s sports bill, and welfare reform.
Among those bills is HB 3, a 72-page omnibus abortion law that imposes sweeping new restrictions on abortion in Kentucky. In addition to banning abortion procedures after 15 weeks of pregnancy, the new law prohibits receiving abortion medication by mail, requires that girls under 18 seeking an abortion show an abortionist informed written consent from a parent or legal guardian, requires that the corpses of aborted babies be buried or cremated, and more.
Beshear vetoed the legislation last week, criticizing the bill for lacking exemptions for rape and incest and claiming that it is likely unconstitutional. He raised a hypothetical scenario where a 12-year-old girl is raped by her father and would be required to notify her rapist to get an abortion.
“Rape and incest are violent crimes. Victims of these crimes should have options, not be further scarred through a process that exposes them to more harm from their rapists or that treats them like offenders themselves,” Beshear said.
The governor also opposed what he said was an “unfunded mandate” in the law, citing a requirement that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services create an oversight system to monitor drugs used to induce abortions.
Opponents of the legislation, including the Kentucky chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, have threatened legal action challenging the new law. They say it contains so many restrictions that it will effectively eliminate access to abortion in Kentucky.
“Because the law is impossible to comply with, it amounts to a de facto abortion ban, thus violating patients’ federal right to abortion under Roe v. Wade,” representatives from the two organizations said in a statement.
Pro-life activists at Kentucky Right to Life counter that the law implements needed health regulations on “at-home abortions via mail-order” and that all unborn children deserve a right to live, regardless of the circumstances of their conception.
“Without an in-person consultation between a pregnant woman or minor girl and a medical professional, not only is it difficult to assess any serious risk factors such as an ectopic pregnancy, pre-existing conditions or the presence of STIs – sexual transmitted infections, but the door is left wide open for vulnerable women and girls to be physically forced into an unwanted or quick decision on abortion,” Kentucky Right to Life said in a statement opposing Beshear’s veto.
“The Governor states that there is no exception for rape and incest. The issues of rape and incest are extremely sensitive and personal matters, and those harmed by sexual violence often carry a lifetime of scars,” the group said.
“Unfortunately, those opposed to any restrictions on abortions often insert rape and incest to undermine the legislation. The fact that statements on HB 3 are made about such tragic and life-impacting matters as rape or incest without fully reading the bill … which explicitly indicates exceptions for sexual abuse and sexual abuse by the minor girl’s parent — is a political travesty.”
Two previous Kentucky laws banning abortion at six and 14 weeks have been blocked in federal court after legal challenges from the state’s two abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.
The Republican legislature overrode several more vetoes from the Democratic governor.
Senate Bill 83, legislation that bans gender-dysphoric males from competing against girls and women in sixth grade through college, is now law in Kentucky. So is HB 9, which funds charter schools; HB 7, which adds new rules to public benefits programs including Medicaid and food stamps; HB 8, an income tax cut; and SB 216, an election security bill that requires more post-election audits, video surveillance of voting machines and ballot boxes when not in operation for the general election, and a full transition to paper ballots by 2024.