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Kentucky Senate Votes to Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks of Pregnancy

The Kentucky Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would prohibit a woman from having an abortion in Kentucky if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

The legislation, Senate Bill 5, would “protect pain-capable children from the horror of having an abortion performed on them,” said a primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard).

Smith said books for expecting parents describe a 20-week-old fetus as capable of sucking its thumb, yawning, stretching, making faces and responding to pain.

SB 5 passed on a 30-6 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Reginald Thomas (D-Lexington) was among the opponents of the measure, arguing that women should be able to make decisions on their pregnancies without the limitations of SB 5.

“My fear is that by adopting this bill that we’re going to ultimately go back to what we saw in the Fifties and Sixties when we had back-alley butcher shops to take care of situations rather than having a safe medical procedure,” Thomas said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville), a primary sponsor of the legislation, says it focuses on the wellbeing of the unborn child. “We’re not just talking about these women who are seeking abortions. ... We’re talking about the child that is a life. That life deserves a chance to survive. Twenty weeks – that’s five months. … We’re not stopping anyone from getting an abortion. We’re not doing anything that gets in the way of (women’s) conversations with their partner, their spouse, their physician, their priest or minister. We’re not stopping any of that. But we are going to recognize that life exists there.”

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) a medical doctor, said that medical advances are reducing the age at which fetuses are viable, or able to survive outside the womb. “All we’re trying to do here with this bill is give those children an opportunity to survive,” he said.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel (D-Louisville) voted against SB 5 and urged lawmakers to focus on other issues. “One in four children in Kentucky are living in poverty and over 7,000 live in foster care. Our young people, if they are fortunate enough to graduate from college, come out with huge student loans and can’t find jobs. Four-hundred-thousand people may fall through the cracks and lose their health insurance. My question is: why do we spend our precious time in this body attacking a woman’s right to choose … when Kentucky faces so many more demanding issues?”

While casting his vote in favor of the legislation, Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) also quoted statistics.

“We heard statistics earlier … But I want to say there are also statistics of 58,586,256 abortions that have been performed in the United States since 1973. That’s an average of over 1 million abortions per year,” he said.

SB 5 contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Senate President Robert Stivers is sworn in this week (LRC)