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Exceptions proposed to Kentucky abortion ban under new GOP bill

Louisville Republican Rep. Ken Fleming speaks on the House floor.
Legislative Research Commission
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LPM
Louisville Republican Rep. Ken Fleming speaks on the House floor.

A Louisville Republican filed a bill Monday to add new exceptions to Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban, including for victims of rape and incest.

Nearly two years after abortion was almost completely banned in Kentucky, GOP Rep. Ken Fleming filed a bill that would allow victims of rape and incest, women with ectopic pregnancies, and those with nonviable pregnancies to access an abortion.

The current ban on abortions in Kentucky only allows the procedure if necessary to prevent imminent death or permanent injury to the mother.

The Louisville Republican filed the bill Monday, the last day when bills could be filed in the House this year. It's a more limited version of an exceptions bill filed by Democrats early in the session.

The most notable difference is a significant limitation on the exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest — those women can only access care within six weeks of their last period. It would also allow women who have remaining fetal tissue or other “products of conception” after an early miscarriage to receive an abortion.

“As a father of two daughters, I have always supported them financially, emotionally, and especially spiritually. With them on my mind and in my heart, exceptions for life-saving measures for the mother and in cases involving rape or incest should be included in our state’s abortion law,” Fleming said in a statement.

It’s not the first time a Republican in the state proposed exceptions to the ban. Last year, Middletown Republican Rep. Jason Nemes filed a bill to add some exceptions, but it was never assigned to committee. His measure would’ve allowed victims of rape and incest to receive an abortion up to 15 weeks.

Louisville Democratic Sen. David Yates filed a similar bill earlier this session with the support of Gov. Andy Beshear. It has not been assigned to committee more than a month since it was introduced.

Fleming’s bill has a few key differences. It only allows victims of rape and incest to receive an abortion within the first six weeks.

At that point, many women don’t even know that they’re pregnant, said Tamara Weider, the state director with Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. The bill would also not expand the current exception for the mother’s health. Weider said current exceptions for the mother’s health are too narrow and leaves providers in fear of prosecution.

“We have serious concerns,” Weider said. “Policies around exemptions generally do not work in banned states because the criminalization codes on the books make it nearly impossible for providers to give care.”

Fleming's bill also requires doctors write a statement declaring the reason for the abortion and explaining how it fits in into the exceptions. That statement would then be included in the woman’s medical records.

In 2022, Kentucky voters struck down a state constitutional amendment that would have denied any constitutional protection for abortion. Some took that as a sign that Kentuckians felt the state’s abortion ban went too far.

GOP Senate president Robert Stivers said members of his caucus have actively discussed whether to add exceptions to the state’s restrictive ban for months, but didn’t comment further on their appetite for actually passing legislation.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.