Published January 24, 2017
Louisville — Kentucky's governor and its attorney general have found themselves at odds over the state's new law banning abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy.
Both the state's Republican-led Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill Jan. 7 and Gov. Matt Bevin signed it into law. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, however, is refusing to defend the ban on late-term abortions, saying it is “clearly unconstitutional” based on his review of federal appellate rulings.
Beshear drew quick rebukes from prominent Republicans, including Gov. Bevin, for his refusal to defend a law that had the support of a wide margin of the state's lawmakers. Seen as a priority measure by Republicans, Senate Bill 5, banning abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy — except when there is “serious risk” to a mother's physical health — was one of seven bills fast-tracked during the first week of the 2017 General Assembly.
“Beshear would rather pander to his liberal, pro-abortion base than defend the law of Kentucky,” Bevin said in a statement that was videoed and posted on social media. “I will, therefore, continue doing it for him by defending these pro-life bills. The citizens of Kentucky demand and deserve no less."
House Speaker Jeff Hoover told the Courier-Journal, “Andy Beshear's job as attorney general is to defend laws enacted by the General Assembly. The law is very clear, and he does not get to pick and choose. He needs to show up for work and do his job."
Following Beshear's decision, the leader of the state's largest religious organization called for the Beshear to leave legal representation to the governor's office in abortion-related cases.
“Given the attorney general's lackadaisical attitude, I don't think he would provide the strong, passionate representation Kentucky needs to defend either of these crucial laws,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
While a lawsuit has not been filed as yet regarding the restricting of late-term abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union promptly filed a legal challenge Jan. 9 to the other new abortion law, which requires an ultrasound be performed — though women may avert their eyes and turn down the fetal monitor.
The lawsuit over House Bill 2 was filed in the U.S. District Court on behalf of the EMW Women's Surgical Center in downtown Louisville, the only licensed outpatient abortion facility in the state. According to William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, requiring doctors to show ultrasound images to women violates longstanding constitutional principles, including the right to privacy and First Amendment freedoms.
Bevin, however, maintained that the ultrasound bill was “a good piece of legislation."
“This was crafted in a way to comply with existing law and still exercise the sovereignty this state and this legislative body has,” he noted.
With its passage, Kentucky joins 25 other states that have laws regarding ultrasounds performed by abortion providers. (WR)
Compiled from BP and KPA wire reports
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