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Ky. Legislature Passes Ban On Abortions After Sixth Week Of Pregnancy

Kentucky state Capitol
Kentucky state Capitol

The Kentucky legislature has passed a bill banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, sending the measure to Gov. Matt Bevin to be signed into law.

Within minutes of the bill’s passage on Thursday night, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would sue to block it.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, earlier than many people are aware that they’re pregnant.

Lawmakers voted down an amendment that would have provided an exemption for fetuses that have anomalies that keep them from surviving outside the womb.

Rep. Chris Fugate, a Republican from Chavies and the bill’s sponsor in the House, said the amendment would “basically kill” the measure.

“This bill is not for me a political game. This bill for me is about the millions of babies that have been killed over the last few years,” Fugate said.

The move comes a day after the legislature passed a measure that would ban doctors from performing abortions if they believe the person seeking the procedure wants it because of the fetus’ race, sex or a disability. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against that measure as well.

Senate Bill 9 and House Bill 5 are two of several anti-abortion bills proposed during this year’s legislative session and are the latest in a long line of legal challenges between the ACLU and the Bevin administration.

Rep. Lisa Willner, a Democrat from Louisville, said that the measure puts women’s lives at risk. She asked lawmakers to think about the circumstances of those who end up seeking abortions.

“It is unfathomable to me to think about what women go through who were so desperate to end the pregnancies. But let’s keep those women in mind,” Willner.

Federal courts have blocked heartbeat abortion measures in Iowa and South Dakota in recent years. Outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich vetoed a similar measure as one of his final acts last December.

The measure would ban abortions far earlier than protections set out by the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized the procedure.

The landmark ruling said states can’t abolish abortions before viability — the point at which a fetus can survive outside of the womb at around the 24th week of pregnancy.

But anti-abortion advocates hope a newly configured U.S. Supreme Court can overturn the decision and are pushing for measures to undercut the ruling in legislatures across the country.