Kentucky Politics

Gov. Andy Beshear has allowed the so-called “born alive” abortion bill to become law without his signature.

Senate Bill 9 will require doctors to provide life-saving care if a baby survives an abortion attempt, making it a felony if doctors refuse to.

Such situations are exceedingly rare and supporters haven’t documented any cases in Kentucky.

Kentucky law dictates that bills become law if a governor doesn’t sign or veto them within ten days of passage from the legislature.

During an interview Friday morning, Beshear said that he’s not endorsing the bill and emphasized that it seeks to prevent “something that never happens.”

“Everybody on any side related to Senate Bill 9 agreed that it never happens. And so this being something that never happens and would likely be illegal under other statutes, we ultimately did not sign it but did not feel the need to veto it,” Beshear said.

The bill is part of a national Republican effort and is based on model legislation created by Americans United For Life, an anti-abortion organization based in Washington D.C.

Kentucky already bans abortions during or after the 20th week of pregnancy, far before the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb.

Beshear vetoed a similar bill last year, saying that lawmakers were trying to create division and distract from the coronavirus pandemic.

The “born alive” bill was the only bill Beshear didn’t veto of the seven bills lawmakers passed during the first week of its annual legislative session earlier this month.

During the interview on Friday, Beshear highlighted his veto of House Bill 2, which would give Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron the authority to regulate abortion providers, which are currently regulated by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, part of Beshear’s administration

“Obviously I’m vetoing a separate bill that would make the Attorney General a regulator of a medical procedure, when the attorney general’s office has no expertise to do that,” Beshear said.

The Republican-led legislature can easily override the vetoes  with a majority of votes in the state House and Senate when they reconvene in February.

Jess Clark contributed to this story.

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