Politics

Women wouldn’t be able to get abortions if they are more than 20 weeks pregnant under a bill proposed in the Kentucky Senate Tuesday.

The legislation has a good chance of passing the full legislature and governor’s desk, which are controlled by Republicans for the first time in state history.

Senate President Robert Stivers said that the bill would protect unborn fetuses because they don’t get to decide whether to go forth with an abortion.

“There is at this point in time two viable beings in this decision,” Stivers said. “One had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not conceive. But once conception starts there becomes another life involved. And the legislature has its ability to control how that life may proceed or how it may be terminated.”

The bill was filed by Sen. Brandon Smith, a Republican from Hazard, and will be heard by the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Though full text of the legislation isn’t yet available, Stivers said the measure would punish abortion providers that conduct abortions past 20 weeks in a pregnancy with fines or suspensions.

The bill would not include exemptions for victims of rape or incest but exemptions would be included for cases when the woman’s health is in danger.

Republicans in the state Senate have for years proposed anti-abortion bills that were thwarted by the state House, which used to be controlled by Democrats.

With Republicans enjoying supermajorities in both chambers this year, newly-installed House Speaker Jeff Hoover said there would be “overwhelming support” to pass the legislation if it came to his chamber.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently signed a similar bill into law — a move that some have speculated would upend Roe v. Wade if it were challenged in a lawsuit that ended up being appealed to a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

Seven other states have similar abortion bans.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled that women have the right to an abortion up until fetal viability, though the exact age at which a fetus becomes viable is unclear.

“I think that we are very well aware of the issues as it relates to this bill and are ready, willing and able to move forward and will move forward on this bill this week,” Stivers said.

Kate Miller, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said the decision whether to have an abortion needs to be made by women for themselves.

“When we put laws like this to stand in her way, it really isn’t about the health of the woman,” Miller said. “These types of laws in actuality can undermine the safety and even jeopardize the lives of women who have made this decision.”

Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said it was still reviewing the legislation.

Also this session, House Republicans have proposed requiring women seeking an abortion to view a sonogram image of their fetus before going through with the procedure — a measure that passed the state Senate last year.

This story has been corrected. Due to incorrect information received from state Senator Brandon Smith, a previous version of this story stated that the bill would include exemptions in cases of rape and incest. 

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