FRANKFORT — The Kentucky House passed a bill Tuesday seeking to amend the state constitution to specifically state that women do not have a legal right to an abortion.
House Bill 67 passed by a 71-21 vote and now heads to the Senate. If approved by three-fifths of that chamber, the proposed constitutional amendment would be approved or rejected by voters in a state referendum this fall.
The chamber also passed House Bill 451 by a 70-23 vote on Tuesday, which would expand the power of Kentucky’s attorney general to regulate abortion facilities, including bringing civil or criminal penalties for violations.
Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, the main sponsor of HB 67, said the constitutional amendment would “end the slaughter of unborn children in Kentucky.”
Fischer also criticized the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that legalized abortion nationwide, hoping that a constitutional restriction in Kentucky would kick in if that decision was ever overturned.
Several Democratic legislators spoke against the bill, reading aloud the testimony that several HB 67 opponents were prepared to give in committee in February before they were cut off by the chairman after only seven minutes.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, called the bill “another arrogant, patronizing piece of legislation” meant to belittle women.
Rep. Josie Raymond, D-Louisville, while holding her newborn infant, spoke against HB 67 and said women with nonviable pregnancies must maintain their right to have an abortion, which the constitutional amendment would take away.
Asked about the lack of exceptions in the abortion amendment to protect the life of the mother or in cases of rape and incest, Fischer said the legislature could create statutory rules for those situations, as this only takes the issue out of the courts.
Rep. Terri Branham Clark, D-Catlettsburg, who called herself a “pro-life Democrat,” said it was “irresponsible” to not include any specific exceptions in the amendment. Noting that her daughter is pregnant, she added that she could not vote for legislation that “could endanger her life as a pregnant woman.”
House Bill 451 heads to the Senate chamber after its passage Tuesday, which would enhance the power of anti-abortion Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Current state law limits the attorney general’s power to take enforcement action against abortion clinics without authorization from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which licenses and inspects such facilities. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is a supporter of a woman’s right to an abortion.
Several female Democratic legislators spoke against the bill, saying it is a way to appoint the attorney general as a “special prosecutor” against a clinic.
Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, the main sponsor of HB 451, countered that a special prosecutor was needed to protect the “unborn babies that are killed.”