Kentucky lawmakers pass 15-week abortion ban

FRANKFORT, KY. — Kentucky lawmakers voted Tuesday night to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, taking a preemptive step for tougher restrictions that’s tied to a looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights.

The measure sparked protests from abortion-rights advocates, who chanted “abortion is health care” and unfurled banners that said “stop the bans” before being cleared from the Senate gallery during a debate earlier in the day.

The bill won final passage hours later in the House. It followed Senate action that inserted the 15-week ban into the sweeping bill that would regulate the dispensing of abortion pills. The measure — sent to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear — is the latest round of abortion restrictions passed in Kentucky since Republicans took complete control of the legislature after the 2016 election.

The proposed 15-week ban is modeled after a Mississippi law under review by the nation’s high court in a case that could dramatically limit abortion rights in the United States.

By taking the preemptive action, Kentucky’s stricter ban would be in place if the Mississippi law is upheld by the nation’s high court, said Republican Sen. Max Wise.

Kentucky law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Opponents said the bill’s restrictions were so onerous that no abortion clinic could comply.

“The walls are closing in on safe and legal abortion care in the commonwealth,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

Much of the debate Tuesday revolved around the proposed regulation of dispensing of abortion pills, requiring women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication. Opponents called the measure another intrusion into women’s medical decisions.

“This oversight is specifically designed to regulate a safe, effective medical procedure out of existence because you don’t believe in it,” said Democratic Sen. Karen Berg.

“You don’t feel that women have the right to control their own reproductive life,” she added. “And I tell you, you do not have the rights to make that decision for me.”

Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado defended the restrictions, saying the bill would “prevent at-home, pill-by-mail, do-it-yourself abortions that leave women to fend for themselves if medical complications arise.”

The bill is part of a nationwide push by anti-abortion groups to limit the ability of physicians to prescribe abortion pills by telemedicine, and comes in response to the increased use of pills rather than surgery to terminate early pregnancies.

About half of abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures.

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