Just over two months after Kentucky Republicans filed a sweeping bill restricting abortion in the state, it’s become law.
The legislature voted last Wednesday to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of House Bill 3, a 72-page measure originally filed in February by Republican Rep. Nancy Tate of Brandenburg.
Now, court cases are ongoing as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood try to get the law blocked.
The law requires providers to do a physical exam before prescribing abortion medication and blocks providers from sending it through the mail. Physicians must also follow up to check for complications.
The law mandates additional certification and registration processes for anyone providing or distributing the medication.
It makes it harder for minors to get abortions and introduces new requirements for the disposal of fetal tissue.
“So each piece of this is very important to … the most pro-life general assembly that we’ve had in the history of the state of Kentucky,” Tate said in February after filing the bill.
Tate says this particular bill is not about ending abortion, but making it safer while it is legal.
But opponents say the bill isn’t based in medical science, and that it will result in negative health outcomes.
“Many of the people in this room believe that it’s morally wrong to terminate a pregnancy,” Democratic Sen. Karen Berg said during a Senate committee hearing in late March. “And what I think is morally wrong is for the government to come in and tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her own reproduction.”
During a House committee meeting earlier that month, Democratic Representative Pamela Stevenson said supporters of the bill were focusing on the wrong issues.
“The pro-life is really pro-birth, because when the children are born, we have thousands of children in the foster care system that no one’s taking care of. We have thousands of children being abused. And you’re not bringing forth bills to end that.”
Both houses passed the bill March 29, with several Democratic senators walking off the floor in protest.
That same day, lawmakers added a measure banning abortion at 15 weeks. It mimics language in Mississippi’s abortion bill that’s currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
A ruling on that this year could overturn or weaken the 1973 landmark case Roe v Wade.
Where abortion law stands now
Lawmakers voted down an amendment the day the bill passed that would have allowed abortion in cases of rape or incest.
That was part of the reasoning Democratic Governor Andy Beshear gave when he vetoed the bill just over a week later. He also said the bill was “likely unconstitutional.”
Beshear also took issue with a part of the law that affects minors. It requires permission from a primary parent and requires that parent to make a good faith effort to notify the other parent. That consent is not required if there’s a domestic order or past crimes against a minor.
The legislature voted to override the veto April 13.
Republican Senator Stephen Meredith explained his vote to uphold the bill.
“And I do it in the honor and memory of the 63 million babies that have been killed since Roe versus wade,” he said. “This is a stain upon our country. It’s our greatest sin. It needs to be reversed.”
Democratic Senator Morgan McGarvey of Louisville voted against the bill.
“I know we don’t always agree on the ultimate bright line of this policy,” he said. “I do believe that these decisions are best made between a woman and her doctor, not by the 138 members of the general assembly. … I think it’s irresponsible and will have major consequences for people’s lives.”
Due to an emergency clause, the bill went into effect immediately. Providers say that means a de facto ban on abortion, because the systems aren’t set up for them to be in compliance with the new law.
Ahead of last Wednesday’s vote, Tamarra Wieder, state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates for Kentucky, said the law would mean less access for patients in the state.
“It means that pending any relief from the courts giving us injunctive relief, they will not be able to access abortion in the Commonwealth,” she said. “We will see the legislature in court on this bill.”
Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed documents in federal court Thursday challenging the new law and asking judges to block it.
The judge in the Planned Parenthood case said she is immediately considering their motion for a temporary restraining order.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has until noon Tuesday to respond to the motion.