Kentucky bill requires care for infants surviving abortion

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A bill that would require doctors and other health workers to provide life-saving care for an infant born alive after a failed abortion attempt was approved by a Kentucky Senate panel Thursday.

The measure sailed through the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee without any opposition. No one spoke against the bill during the meeting. Afterward, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky laid out its opposition by releasing a letter it sent to the committee members. The group said the bill perpetuates “myths and lies about abortion care."

The bill now heads to the Republican-dominated Senate. It's among the Senate's priority bills, and nearly half of the chamber's members have signed on as cosponsors of the proposal.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the bill's lead sponsor, said he isn't aware of any instances in which an infant was born alive in Kentucky from a failed abortion. But the measure is needed to “prevent it ever happening," the Republican lawmaker told reporters after the committee meeting.

“Who can dispute that that's a human life?" Westerfield said. “It's outside the womb. It's alive. Who would advocate for it to be killed? ... We want to make sure the law's there to punish those that are trying to do it and get away with it."

The bill would require that health-care workers give “medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment” to any infant born after a failed abortion.

Violating the bill would be a felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. It would apply to doctors and other health workers found in violation of the care requirements.

The ACLU of Kentucky said the bill is based on “false claims" and has “nothing to do with how abortion care actually works."

“Bills like these perpetuate myths and lies about abortion care, patients who receive this care and the doctors who care for them," the group said in its letter to the committee members.

Similar legislation is being considered in West Virginia, where an opposing lawmaker said that it creates a new offense out of something that's already illegal.

The Kentucky measure is among the latest round of abortion-related bills introduced so far in this year's legislative session. One proposal would amend the state Constitution to specify it includes no protection for abortion rights. Another would ban public money for any agency that performs or counsels patients about abortion.

Kentucky law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature in the 2017 session. Some of those laws are being challenged in court, including one that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.


The bill that won committee approval Thursday is Senate Bill 9.

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