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"Born Alive" Bill Passes Ky. Senate, House Committee

Legislation titled the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act passed the Kentucky Senate on Thursday and a House committee on Friday.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 9, would require that an infant born alive be given the appropriate medical care to preserve life. Any violation of SB 9 could result in the medical provider’s license being revoked and felony charges.

It passed the full Senate by a vote of 32-4.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) said he introduced SB 9 because it would formalize that any born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person in state statutes.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville), who didn't support SB 9, asked if there were any incidents in Kentucky in which a child didn't receive medically appropriate care after being born. Westerfield said he was aware of two incidents. Before Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder) voted for the bill, he said he knew of an incident that resulted in litigation.

Sen. C.B. Embry Jr. (R-Morgantown) said SB 9 was necessary because a federal law from 2002 only applies to federal facilities. He said SB 9 covers private and state facilities. Embry is a primary sponsor of SB 9 along with Westerfield.

Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville) said it was with an extremely heavy heart that she opposed SB 9. She said it could tie the hands of medical providers during miscarriages.

“As a practicing physician who understands better than most in this room the limits of what medicine can and cannot do, I cannot vote for a bill that requires for a physician to do something that is not doable,” she said.

Sen. Tom Buford (R-Nicholasville) said it would be unbearable to think he didn’t support a bill that could save an infant’s life.

“I know this is a difficult bill for some individuals but not for myself,” he said. “I’ve always stood of the opinion, that while many of us worry about the end of life and how that will be handled, I think it is more important that we worry about the beginning of life and how that life should be brought into this earth.”

The General Assembly passed a similar bill in the final days of the 2020 session, but it was vetoed after the legislature had adjourned for the year.

Westerfield said the only difference between this year’s bill and the final version of last year’s bill was the removal of provisions giving the Kentucky Attorney General some enforcement power over abortion providers. That language has been placed in different legislation this year, House Bill 2.

SB 9 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately if it is passed into law rather than 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The SB 9 now goes to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.

House committee approves bill

Less than 24 hours after the Kentucky Senate voted “yes” on Senate Bill 9, the bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee. 

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, Dr. Brittany Myers, an obstetrics and gynecology physician in Louisville, testified against the bill, saying it is a way “to shame patients and threaten providers and further limit access to abortion care.”

“All this does is requires or requests that reasonable attempts are made to see if that infant has a possible viable situation… we’re not asking for medical providers or practitioners to provide care that is impossible,” Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser (R-Taylor Mill) said.

Westerfield, who appeared before the committee, agreed with Moser’s comments.

“We’re not asking for extraordinary measures,” he said. “We are asking for medically appropriate and reasonable measures.”

With the House Judiciary Committee’s approval, the bill will move to the House Floor for consideration.

From the Legislative Research Commission

Photo: Sen. Whitney Westerfield (via LRC)

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