Abortion opponents send bill to Kentucky governor

FRANKFORT,
Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kentucky moved this week to give the
state’s anti-abortion attorney general authority to regulate abortion
clinics, but they may have acted too late if the state’s new Democratic
governor objects.

The
legislature passed the bill late Wednesday, on the last day of the 2020
legislative session. But if Gov. Andy Beshear decides to veto the bill
and keep regulatory authority in his own administration’s hands,
anti-abortion lawmakers won’t have the opportunity to override him.

That didn’t stop Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron from embracing the measure Thursday.

“As
the chief law enforcement officer for the commonwealth, our office must
be able to act unencumbered and with clear legal authority when an
abortion provider breaks the law,” he said.

With the decision now up to him, the governor didn’t tip his hand about the bill’s eventual fate.

“I
haven’t read it,” Beshear told reporters Thursday. “I don’t have any
decision on it yet. I’ve been working solely on the coronavirus. I will
look at it at some point within the period of time that I have for
vetoes.”

The
dynamics surrounding abortion have shifted dramatically from just a few
months ago. Abortion was a central point of contention between Beshear,
who was himself the attorney general when he won the governor’s race in
November, and former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, the man he defeated.
The bill’s passage sets the table for keeping it front and center in
this year’s election, when many GOP lawmakers face reelection
themselves.

Republicans
successfully overrode vetoes from the governor repeatedly this week on
other matters, including the state budget, revenue and legislation
requiring photo identification for voting.

The
legislation would allow the attorney general to take civil or criminal
action against abortion facilities. Under current law, the attorney
general needs authorization from the state Cabinet for Health and Family
Services before taking such action. The measure would give the attorney
general independent authority on those matters.

Cameron made a case for the bill in a statement in which he expressed hope that Beshear will sign it into law.

Cameron
said the continuation of abortions when elective medical procedures are
halted amid the coronavirus pandemic shows the new enforcement powers
are “”necessary and timely.” He has said abortions in the state should
cease as part of Beshear’s order halting elective procedures. That order
is meant to limit contact among people and preserve medical supplies
such as masks and gloves.

The bill sent to Beshear declares abortion to be an elective medical procedure.

Two abortion-rights groups, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, are urging the governor to veto the legislation. They denounced it as a “blatant power grab” meant to make it harder for women to obtain abortions.

Beshear
supports abortion rights but backs “reasonable restrictions,”
especially on late-term procedures. Bevin tried to make abortion a
central issue in this conservative state in last year’s election, while
Beshear ran a disciplined campaign that kept the focus on educational
improvements he was pushing. Bevin’s confrontational style, highlighted
by his feud with schoolteachers, helped lead to his narrow defeat.

Now
Republican lawmakers have reasserted the abortion issue when Beshear is
commanding unprecedented attention in leading the state’s efforts to
combat the coronavirus outbreak. The governor presides over daily virus briefings shown on statewide television.

Another
part of the abortion measure sent to Beshear would require doctors to
provide life-sustaining care for an infant born alive after a failed
abortion attempt. Critics have noted that the law already requires them
to attempt life-saving measures.

Kentucky
lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on
abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature in
the 2017 session. Some of those laws are being challenged in courts,
including one that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected,
usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Abortion
procedures in Kentucky are done at EMW Women’s Surgical Center in
Louisville. Planned Parenthood has said it recently began offering
abortion services in Louisville under a provisional license.

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Source: Mountain Top