FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky lawmakers took another step Wednesday toward banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with an eye toward a looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion rights.
The bill, which won Senate passage 31-6, is modeled after a Mississippi law under review by the nation’s high court in a case that could dramatically limit abortion rights in the United States. The Kentucky measure next advances to the House. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.
By taking preemptive action, Kentucky’s stricter ban would “withstand challenge and be immediately enforceable” if the Mississippi law were to be upheld, said Republican Sen. Max Wise, the bill’s lead sponsor.
Kentucky law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Two states have enacted 15-week abortion bans — Mississippi and Louisiana, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.
The Louisiana law hasn’t taken effect pending the outcome of the legal fight over the Mississippi law, the group said. Florida lawmakers recently passed a 15-week abortion ban. The governor there previously signaled his support for the proposal and is expected to sign it into law.
In Kentucky, lawmakers have voted repeatedly to place more restrictions and conditions on abortion since the GOP assumed complete control of the legislature after the 2016 election.
Unlike other abortion bills, the proposed 15-week ban sparked little Senate discussion Wednesday.
“We don’t know what the Supreme Court will decide,” Democratic Sen. Reginald Thomas said in opposing the bill. “And if we pass this legislation and the Supreme Court decides to affirm the 50-year-old principles of Roe v. Wade, then this bill will otherwise be held unconstitutional.
“So I think it would be better just to wait to see what the Supreme Court does, and then each state can act accordingly,” he added.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.
In voting for the ban after 15 weeks, Republican Sen. Johnnie Turner called it “the most important bill that I will probably vote (on) while I’m down here this session, and maybe while I’m down here as a senator. It’s life or death, and I’m for life.”
Abortion-rights advocate Tamarra Wieder has said the proposed ban amounted to “political theater” in an election year by essentially duplicating previous efforts. Other stringent anti-abortion laws enacted in prior years by Kentucky legislators are stalled while undergoing court challenges, said Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.
It’s one of two high-profile abortion bills winding through Kentucky’s legislature. The House recently passed a separate proposal to strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills. That measure would require women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication. About half of abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures. That bill is awaiting action by senators.
The legislation banning abortions after 15 weeks is Senate Bill 321.