It often seems as if the fight for reproductive rights is a constant uphill battle, with the religious right tirelessly working to restrict access to safe abortions. In the past several years, one of the most common ways states have tried to curb reproductive rights is with “heartbeat” bills that ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is present (at around six weeks). The Associated Press reports that on January 8th, the Kentucky State Senate introduced one of these bills for discussion.
As the AP notes, the 1973 court decision Roe v. Wade prevents states from outlawing abortion before fetal viability—meaning that bills like the one in Kentucky are in opposition to this decision. And although the Supreme Court could theoretically overturn Roe now that it has a conservative majority, it remains the law of the land. Bridget Amiri, an attorney for the ACLU, told the AP that Kentucky’s heartbeat bill was “blatantly unconstitutional.”
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance the bill might pass. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, as of today, January 10th, the bill has already had two readings and has been assigned to a committee. Before it can become law, it must be passed in the state Senate and state House (both controlled by Republicans) and then signed by Governor Matt Bevin. State Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican, told the news outlet that the bill was “absolutely” a priority for the chamber.
So far, other states’ attempts to pass heartbeat bills have been blocked. The Courier Journal notes that former Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed one such bill in 2018, and a court in North Dakota previously struck down a similar ban. Iowa is currently the only state with a “heartbeat” bill in place, but according to the Des Moines Register, it has been put on hold due to challenges in court.
This latest bill is yet another reminder that our reproductive rights are under attack. If you live in Kentucky and oppose this bill, contact your state senators and let them know. All people deserve to have autonomy over their bodies, and we must do everything we can to protect this right.