On the same day that they assumed total control of the state legislature for the first time in nearly a century, Kentucky Republicans introduced and fast-tracked new abortion restrictions that they hope to pass by week's end.
One bill, SB5, would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and passed out of committee late Wednesday afternoon. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed a similar restriction into law last month. Speaking of the bill on Tuesday, Kentucky Senate president Robert Stivers—who said he'd like to ban abortion even earlier than 20 weeks—claimed women have a "choice" of whether to conceive a child and "the legislature has its ability to determine" the course of a pregnancy after that.
"This is my belief: there are two viable beings involved," he said. "One had a choice early on to make a decision to conceive or not. Once conception starts, another life is involved, and the legislature has the ability to determine how that life proceeds."
The Lexington Herald Leader reports that Stivers said SB5 "could get a vote on the Senate floor this week," while newly elected state House Speaker Jeff Hoover said there would be "overwhelming support" for the bill in his chamber.
Another measure, HB2, requiring doctors to show women seeking an abortion an ultrasound image of their fetus before the procedure takes place, was passed out of committee 14-5 on Wednesday afternoon. According to the ACLU of Kentucky, opponents of the bill were allowed to testify only "after audience protest"—and then with limited time.
— Kaitlyn Soligan (@ksoligan) January 4, 2017
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When a version of the legislation passed the state Senate last year, Tamarra Wieder, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, told Rewire: "This bill really interferes with the doctor-patient relationship by allowing politicians to determine medical practices over the wishes of the provider and patient. It also creates complications and barriers for providers. A lot of providers are only in the clinic for one day a week or two days a week for the procedure, not ultrasounds."
Derek Selznick, the Reproductive Freedom Project director for the ACLU of Kentucky, noted to the Courier-Journal at the time that an identical bill from North Carolina had been struck down by federal courts in 2015—a ruling was allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"This is not informed consent," Selznick said last February, "this is about politicians trying to bully, shame and humiliate women who have already made their personal and often heart-wrenching decision to end their pregnancy."
The Hill reports that a third piece of proposed legislation in Kentucky would block public funding of organizations that perform abortions such as Planned Parenthood, despite a recent federal order that forbids states from doing just that. Texas moved to do the same late last month.
Referring to SB5 and HB2, Amber Duke, communications director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said: "It's unfortunate after weeks of lawmakers promising business would be their top priority and social issues wouldn't be on the front burner that within hours of gaveling in we see two anti-abortion bills that seem to be on the fast track."
As the group wrote on Twitter, the legislative session appears to be "off to a fast start for folks working to limit reproductive freedom."
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky are planning a rally for 1 pm Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda to protest the anti-abortion bills. Follow @ACLUofKY and @PPAdvocatesINKY for updates.