Politics

The General Assembly gave final approval to a pair of controversial anti-abortion bills on Saturday as Republicans quickly cleared conservative legislation by the end of their first week controlling the legislative process in Kentucky.

Women would be prevented from getting abortions during or after the 20th week of pregnancy under one bill. The other would require doctors performing an abortion to conduct an ultrasound of the woman and verbally describe the fetus before the procedure.

Both bills would take effect once they are signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, which he has indicated he will do.

Rep. James Tipton, a Republican from Taylorsville, voted in favor of both bills, saying that women shouldn’t terminate problematic pregnancies.

“God does not make mistakes,” Tipton said. “There are unborn children that do not have the ability to speak up for their self in defense of their life and liberty. But friends, here in the Kentucky House of Representatives we have an opportunity to be their voice”

After flipping the control of the state House of Representatives in their favor on Election Day, Republicans where in charge of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history as of this week.

Lawmakers passed a handful of bills — including the anti-abortion legislation — in the first five days of the session, the shortest time to become law without suspending the rules.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, a Democrat from Louisville, said the 20-week abortion bill would give no recourse to some women with complicated pregnancies.

“Terminations that fall after week 20 are usually, almost exclusively in cases where something has gone terribly wrong,” said Jenkins, a nurse. “Women do not just decide halfway through their pregnancy, ‘today I’m going to terminate my pregnancy,’ it just does not happen that way. Let’s not put an expectant mother with a high-risk pregnancy at risk.”

Similar versions of both bills have been challenged in other states.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up an appeal of a ruling against a North Carolina ultrasound abortion bill in 2015. Also that year, a federal appeals court struck down a 20-week abortion ban in Idaho.

Several Democrats objected to the lack of a provision exempting victims of rape and incest from the 20-week abortion ban.

Rep. John Blanton, a Republican from Salyersville, said pregnancies created out of rape or incest shouldn’t be exempted, adding that his great-grandmother was raped.

“If my great-grandmother had had an abortion, I wouldn’t be here today. So I have a personal connection to these bills,” Blanton said.

Kate Miller, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said members of the General Assembly who voted for the anti-abortion bills simply wanted to ban abortion.

“Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 2 are not about women’s health. They represent nothing more than political intrusion in the most personal, private decisions,” Miller said.

Lawmakers now have a month-long break before the legislative session resumes.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.