GOP Lawmakers in Kentucky Override Governor's Veto on 15-Week Abortion Ban
The decision by the state legislature has been decried by abortion rights activists, who said that it is now de facto illegal to have an abortion in Kentucky.
Both chambers of Kentucky's assembly voted on Wednesday to override Governor Andy Beshear's veto of House Bill 3 which banned all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy and had no exceptions for rape or incest.
With the bill going into effect immediately, it will prompt the closure of the only two abortion clinics left in Kentucky, as the state government has introduced a now-mandated regulatory process.
The governor vetoed the bill last week, but the state legislature, with both the House and the Senate enjoying a Republican supermajority, voted overwhelmingly to push the anti-abortion legislation through the veto.
The House voted 76-21 in favour of overriding the veto, and the Senate supported the decision in a 31-6 vote. Both decisions were being made with a large crowd protesting the anti-abortion bill behind the chambers' closed doors, flocking the stairs in the state Capitol, according to the Associated Press
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union pledged to challenge the bill in court.
"No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will", the ACLU said in a statement. "We'll see Kentucky in court".
According to the pro-choice activists, the state "was emboldened by a similar 15-week ban pending before the Supreme Court and other states passing cruel abortion bans, including Florida and Oklahoma".
"But this ban and others like it remain unconstitutional", the ACLU said.
A similar abortion ban was greenlit in Oklahoma
earlier in the week, with Governor Kevin Stitt signing a bill that made it a felony to perform an abortion in the state. The Oklahoma legislation, however, is set to take effect later in the summer.
Florida has also introduced legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, also with no exceptions for rape, incest, or victims of sex trafficking, set to go into effect in July. Currently, Florida laws restrict abortions only after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Before the new bill, laws in Kentucky prohibited abortions after 20 weeks. Kentucky's House Bill 3 is inspired by the Mississippi abortion law, which is currently being scrutinised by the Supreme Court.
The slew of anti-abortion bills in Republican-controlled states comes as the Supreme Court is also set to weigh the fate of Roe v. Wade - the landmark provision that guaranteed the nationwide right to abortion. Until Roe v. Wade remains unchallenged in the SCOTUS, abortion-rights activists say that Kentucky's House Bill 3 violates the provision and therefore is unconstitutional.
Pro-life activists, among them GOP Representative Norma Kirk-McCormick who pushed to override the Beshear veto, continue to insist that abortion is "plain wrong".
"I pray that God would have mercy on anyone that would take the life of a child. There's no mercy for that baby in abortion", she said as the House voted to reject the governor's veto.
Kentucky's legislature also voted to override another Beshear veto that blocked the move to ban transgender athletes
from taking part in sports as members of the teams that fall in line with their gender identity from sixth grade through college, in a push to ensure that girls and women competing against each other are "biological females".