Kentucky Senate Passes Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Ban

Fetus, Kentucky State Senate President Robert Stivers - collage.
A.Currell/Flickr, Adam Beam/AP Photo

The Kentucky Senate voted 31–6 Thursday to advance legislation that would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — usually six or seven weeks into pregnancy.

The Republican Party of Kentucky posted on Twitter:

Earlier in the day, a pregnant woman allowed a committee that reviewed the bill to hear the heartbeat of her unborn baby via an electronic monitor, reported the Associated Press.

April Lanham — a supporter of the legislation, who is 18 weeks pregnant — said she hoped her baby’s heartbeat would be a “powerful noise” for lawmakers to hear before voting on the bill.

“Every life matters,” she said.

“That child in her womb is a living human being,” said Republican State Sen. Matt Castlen, the bill’s sponsor. “And all living human beings have a right to life.”

Nicolle Stipp — who has had an abortion — said during the committee hearing that she opposed the bill, reported WDRB.

“Think about these laws that put a boot on my neck and would force me to have a child when I’m not financially ready for one and when I don’t have the premium health care to bring one into this world safely,” she said. “Your laws — these laws, this bill — are just making our state worse, stamping your boots on the necks of working women.”

However, Claire Culwell — who survived an abortion attempt by her mother — said, “My rights were just as important as my birth mother’s.”

“My heart beat just as loud as hers,” she continued. “I deserved a chance at life just like any other unborn baby with a beating heart in the womb.”

The bill now heads to the Kentucky House.

Abortion rights advocates are warning of lawsuits should the legislation become law.

“Each of you took an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Kate Miller of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky told the Senate committee. “This law is patently unconstitutional. The second it is signed, the ACLU of Kentucky will file a lawsuit. And much like the other laws you have passed, we expect that you will be held up in litigation unsuccessfully for years.”

State Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, responded by saying, “Who sits on the Supreme Court determines what’s constitutional or not.”

Most recently, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, filed a brief on February 6 in the Louisville abortion clinic transfer agreement case currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Planned Parenthood and another abortion clinic filed a lawsuit claiming a Kentucky state law that required abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals and ambulances in case of emergencies created an undue burden on the right to abortion.

“The [transfer agreement] statute and regulation do not constitute an undue burden on the right to an abortion,” the brief stated. “The Commonwealth has a valid interest in protecting the health and safety of abortion patients.”

The brief continued:

The record shows that transfer and transportation agreements benefit patients. The only emergency medicine physician to testify in this case testified at length about the benefits of transfer agreements, and even the National Abortion Federation recommends that abortion facilities have such agreements. If the Commonwealth cannot enact such beneficial requirements, then it is not clear what it can do to protect the health and safety of abortion patients.

A recent Marist poll showed 75 percent of Americans want substantial restrictions on abortion, including 60 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of those who identify as pro-choice.

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