Kentucky bill requiring abortion clinics to save babies born alive becomes law

Andy Beshear
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear gives the "State of the Commonwealth" speech in January 2021. |

A bill that requires abortion clinics to save babies that survive the procedure has become law in Kentucky after Democratic Governor Andy Beshear refused to veto it.

The new law, known as Senate Bill 9 and passed last week, requires a “physician performing an abortion” to “take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant.”

“Any born-alive infant, including one (1) born in the course of an abortion procedure, shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of this Commonwealth, with the same rights to medically appropriate and reasonable care and treatment. After birth, a birth certificate shall be issued and, if death occurs after birth, a death certificate shall be issued,” states the law.

“The parent or guardian of a born-alive infant shall not be held criminally or civilly liable for the actions of a physician, physician assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, nurse, or other healthcare provider that are in violation of this section and to which the parent or guardian did not give consent.”

Republican State Senator Whitney Westerfield, sponsor of the legislation, told that he would have preferred for the governor to sign the bill into law rather than just let it pass.

“I’m disappointed he didn’t sign it, but I’m grateful he didn’t veto it,” explained Westerfield, then added that “I’ll take what I can get.”

Critics of the legislation, like the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, urged Beshear to veto the bill, arguing that it was an unnecessary measure.

“This bill is a solution in search of a non-existent problem,” stated Jackie McGranahan of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Reproductive Freedom Project, in a letter to the governor sent before the bill became law.

“Senate Bill 9 uses inflammatory rhetoric to make physicians who provide abortion care appear criminal. Moreover, this bill could violate patient privacy by violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).”

In April of last year, Beshear vetoed a similar bill, reasoning at the time that he was “just not doing divisive issues right now” as the state grappled with responding to the coronavirus.

“We’ve got to have 100 percent of our effort aimed toward it and we got to have unity in this Commonwealth,” stated Beshear, as reported by Kentucky Today. “I just didn’t think it was the right direction for us to go.”

The bill was one of many legislative efforts at the state and federal level in response to controversial comments made by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam in 2019.

When discussing third-trimester abortions in an interview with WTOP, Northam gave the hypothetical example of a baby born with “severe deformities” or is not viable.

“In this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable,” said Northam at the time. “It would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother.”

The comments generated backlash from pro-life groups and politicians, including a denunciation by United States Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska spoken on the Senate floor.

“Let's be clear what we're talking about. We're talking about killing a baby that's been born. We're not talking about some euphemism, we're not talking about a clump of cells,” stated Sasse.

“Everyone in the Senate ought to be able to say unequivocally that killing that little baby is wrong. This doesn't take any political courage.”

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