On Friday, April 24, Kentucky Governor Andrew Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 9, which aimed to grant the state’s attorney general the power to restrict abortion access during the coronavirus pandemic, and require physicians to attempt to “preserve the life of any infant born after an attempted abortion”.
The governor stated in his veto message that Kentucky already has protections in place to ensure children are given life-saving medical care when they are born. He also stated that bills similar to the bill have been struck down as unconstitutional “in the majority of states in America where challenged”.
He added that during the coronavirus emergency, it is not the time to introduce “a divisive set of lawsuits that reduce our unity and our focus on defeating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and restarting our economy”.
Senate Bill 9 states that “a physician performing an abortion shall take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant,” and that violations could lead to suspension or revocation of the license of any health care professional who violates.
The bill also expanded the power of the Kentucky attorney general by granting the ability to sue abortion clinics to “prevent, penalize, and remedy violations” of abortion regulations. The major purpose of the bill is to reduce abortion access.
While some Kentucky conservatives believe that abortion should fall under the Governor’s March mandate restricting elective surgeries, abortion is, in reality, an essential, time-sensitive health care procedure.
Kentucky AG David Cameron called for the Governor to include abortion care as an elective surgery, but Beshear stated that the decision is up to “our health professionals to determine what falls in the elective or the essential”. Several states have issued similar mandates, arguing for the need to conserve hospital resources. These laws face legal challenges from abortion providers and national abortion rights groups, including the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Sources: The Hill 4/24/20; Commonwealth of Kentucky Office of the Governor 4/24/20; Kentucky General Assembly 4/24/20; Kentucky.gov 4/16/20; YouTube 3/26/20; CNN 4/27/20; Feminist Newswire 4/22/20