The Kentucky legislature passed two pro-life bills this week, which are expected to be signed by the governor. The bills, which would ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected and for discriminatory reasons, are already facing planned legal challenges.
The Senate passed HB 5 by a 32-4 vote March 13, meant to prevent discriminatory abortion decisions. The House approved SB 9 March 14 by a vote of 71-19, a legislation that bans abortion after a heartbeat has been detected. Both pieces of legislation passed through their legislative counterparts last month.
The bills need to be signed by Republican Governor Matt Bevin, who has emphasized the state’s pro-life stance and is expected to the sign the bills into law.
Shortly after the legislation was passed, American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the anti-discrimination bill and promised to open another case against the fetal heartbeat ban. The organization is acting on behalf of the state’s only abortion clinic, located in Louisville.
Following the lawsuit’s announcement, Governor Bevin responded on Twitter, challenging the organization to face the pro-life attitude of Kentucky.
HB 5 prohibits abortions to be performed because of the baby’s gender, race, national origin, or disability. Under the bill, doctors would be required “to certify a lack of knowledge that the pregnant woman's intent” was in line with discrimination. The doctors would subjected to losing their license if the measure is violated.
According to Cincinnati Public Radio, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was anti-discriminatory.
"House Bill 5 would hold the abortionist accountable for performing an abortion for a specific reason: because the baby is a boy or a girl, because the baby is a particular race or because they might be born with a known or suspected disability," Alvarado said.
In a March 13 statement, Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the law restricts a woman’s ability to make a decision on abortion.
“Kentucky women must be able to have private conversations with their health care providers and must be able to decide whether to have an abortion. We see this legislation for exactly what it is – part of a campaign to prevent a woman from obtaining an abortion if she needs one – and we won’t stand for it,” she said.
The heartbeat ban would require an examination to determine whether the fetus has a heartbeat or not. If so, an abortion would be prohibited, unless the mother’s health is at risk.
“It recognizes that at the sound of a heartbeat, that a child is living,” said Rep. Chris Fugate, according to the Associated Press.
“And at the sound of a heartbeat, those who would kill the unborn child would not be allowed to do so anymore. Senate Bill 9 recognizes a heartbeat as a sign of life.”
In a March 14 statement, Amiri said the abortion heartbeat ban was a common move by anti-abortion groups, noting that Kentucky has become the most recent state to pass this bill. In recent years, a handful of states have passed similar legislation, although they generally face difficulties in court.
“These bans are blatantly unconstitutional, and we will ask the court to strike it down,” she said.
Last month, testimonies were given in front of the Kentucky Senate before votes were cast. April Lanham, a local resident, allowed the heartbeat of her unborn baby to be played through an electronic monitor. Abby Johnson, a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and now pro-life activist, also spoke at the event.
“Abortion can never, on its face, be safe, because in order for an abortion to be deemed successful, an individual and unique human with a beating heart must die,” Johnson said, according to WDRB.