Kentucky Republicans Won’t Change Abortion Law

( – Despite defeating a November 2022 ballot measure that would have barred the Kentucky constitution from being amended to protect abortion, abortion-rights proponents are left disappointed after conservative lawmakers closed this year’s session without lifting the state’s ban.

With the close of the lawmaking calendar, Kentucky’s statutory ban on abortion remains in place at least until next year. The only exceptions in the ban are for the life of the mother or serious health risk to the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

Several bills to relax state abortion law were offered, but none of them got a committee hearing. Some of them were never assigned to a committee at all. 

State Rep. Lindsey Burke, a Democrat, filed one of those bills. She said voters “spoke loud and clear” last November when they defeated the measure that would bar the state constitution from protecting abortion.

Burke said that even if her bill didn’t pass, she thought the legislature should have been able to “carve out at least some exemptions.”

The issue remains unsettled in Kentucky, and politicians seem to be taking the measure of higher court decisions before acting on legislation. Kentucky’s near-ban on abortions went into full effect when the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 decision Roe v Wade in 2022.

Roe prevented states from banning abortion in the first trimester, and set up a trimester-based schedule binding on states that set out how strict their abortion bans could be. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe, the right to regulate abortions entirely, without oversight from the federal government, returned to the states. 

Kentucky’s own Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction against the state’s ban when the question came before it, sending it back to the lower courts with instructions to consider state and federal constitutional questions.

Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said “I still think there’s a desire to wait for more clarity from the courts before we move forward.”

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