Politics

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin held a press conference Thursday denouncing Attorney General Andy Beshear for receiving campaign donations from two local abortion providers.

Beshear is a Democrat and challenging Bevin in Kentucky’s race for governor this year.

Bevin accused Beshear of being “in collusion” with the state’s only abortion provider and not adequately defending a handful of abortion laws that have passed out of the legislature in recent years.

“I’m running against a guy who is the most liberal person to ever run for governor in the history of Kentucky,” Bevin said. “This is a guy who’s accepting blood money from people who provide abortions in his state to fund his campaign.”

State campaign finance records show that both Ernest Marshall, the owner of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and an employee at the clinic each donated $2,000 to Beshear’s primary campaign. EMW is the only remaining abortion provider in Kentucky.

Bevin is a staunch opponent to abortion rights and has signed several bills into law restricting the procedure since he took office in late 2015.

Many of the anti-abortion laws have been challenged in federal courts, with mixed results for the Bevin administration.

Bevin has appealed a ruling that struck down Kentucky’s ban on the common “dilation and evacuation” abortion procedure. A federal appeals court has upheld Kentucky’s law requiring doctors to describe the fetus and play audio of a fetal heartbeat to a woman seeking an abortion.

Eric Hyers, Beshear’s campaign manager, said in a statement that Bevin was “desperately trying to distract from his own incompetence.”

“His press stunt this morning was unhinged and erratic. Coupled with his comments on suicides yesterday, his behavior demonstrates that he is not fit to be the governor of Kentucky. Reasonable and good people can disagree on choice — his outlandish language is dangerous and unacceptable,” Hyers said.

On Wednesday, Bevin controversially claimed that “every night somewhere in America” someone dies by suicide as the result of casino gambling.

Beshear has said he would not defend some of Kentucky’s new abortion laws, arguing they are likely unconstitutional.

In 2017 he said he wouldn’t defend a new law banning abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy. This year he said he wouldn’t defend the state’s new law banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — at about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Bevin claimed that donations to Beshear from abortion providers were unethical.

“Why is it that the state has to defend the laws of the legislature — and by the state, I mean my office — because the attorney general whose job it is doesn’t actually do it,” Bevin said.

In 2014, about 57 percent of Kentuckians said abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center.

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