The Republican-led Kentucky House and Senate voted Wednesday to give Attorney General Daniel Cameron power over the state’s abortion clinics.
On the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 451 to give Cameron power to ban elective abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 14, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), who supports abortion rights but also backs “reasonable restrictions,” asked hospitals to halt performing elective procedures but did not enforce a ban on abortion clinics performing elective abortions and stated doctors could decide what is considered elective.
Cameron, a pro-life Republican, said he was supporting a statewide ban on elective abortions to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers treating patients afflicted with the coronavirus infection.
The ban exists, he said, “to further the mandated policy of social distancing and to help conserve medical resources for use in fighting COVID-19.”
The attorney general added abortion providers “should join the thousands of other medical professionals across the state in ceasing elective procedures, unless the life of the mother is at risk, to protect the health of their patients and slow the spread of the coronavirus.”
Kentucky Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R) referred to Beshear as a “hypocrite,” reported WFPL.
“If he would actually step up and do the job he’s been elected to do and enforce his own order, we wouldn’t have to put this language in this bill,” Westerfield said.
According to House Bill 451, abortion is defined as an elective procedure to be restricted during the coronavirus pandemic. The measure would expand the attorney general’s powers and allow him, rather than the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, to pursue civil and criminal penalties against abortion providers who defy an order.
As the legislative session came to a close, lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 9, a measure that would require abortionists to provide medical care to an infant “born alive” following a failed abortion attempt.
In a joint statement, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky (PPAIK) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky referred to approval of Senate Bill 9 as “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.”
Both organizations urged Beshear to veto the legislation.
Jackie McGranahan, ACLU-KY reproductive freedom field organizer, said, in passing the measures, the Kentucky lawmakers have made the decision “to force people to remain pregnant against their will.”
Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for PPAIK, said, “This public health crisis demands real leadership, something the Republican supermajority doesn’t seem to have.”
Cameron said he was “grateful to House and Senate leadership for working together on this bill, which passed with bipartisan support” and hopes Beshear “will sign it into law immediately.”
As the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the Commonwealth, 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.
“With each day that passes, elective abortions continue, using scarce medical resources that are needed to fight this pandemic and potentially exposing more Kentuckians to COVID-19,” Cameron said.