Kentucky’s Democrat attorney general said he will not defend a new state law protecting late-term unborn babies from abortion if abortion activists decide to challenge it.
WFPL Radio reports Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said on Tuesday that he believes the law is “clearly unconstitutional,” and cited courts decisions that struck down similar laws in other states.
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibits abortions after 20 weeks when strong scientific evidence indicates unborn babies can feel pain. Legislators passed the law with overwhelming bipartisan support last week, and pro-life Gov. Matt Bevin signed it into law.
In the law, legislators established a litigation fund to help the state defend it if abortion activists challenge it, the Associated Press reports. Abortion advocacy groups have not announced plans to sue at this time.
The new law makes Kentucky the 16th state to enact a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, following Ohio last month. Together, these laws potentially are saving thousands of babies’ lives. There were at least 5,770 late-term abortions at or after 21 weeks of pregnancy in 2013 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Another approximate 8,150 abortions took place between 18 weeks and 20 weeks, the CDC reports.
Two of the states, Georgia and Idaho, face legal challenges to their laws, but 13 of the 15 other states have their laws in effect, according to the National Right to Life Committee.
When Ohio passed its unborn pain law last month, abortion advocacy groups expressed hesitancy to challenge it because it could be upheld as constitutional.
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“It is not so clear cut on this one,” Christine Link, director of the ALCU of Ohio and an expert on reproductive rights litigation, told the Dayton Daily News. “There is so much at risk. Give the court a wobbly case and they might use it to broaden restrictions.”
AG Beshear said he would defend a second new law, the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act, which the Kentucky legislature also passed last week. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging it on behalf of the EMW Women’s Clinic, an abortion facility in Louisville.
“It is also my duty to defend laws where the constitutionality is questionable and finality is needed,” Beshear said in a statement. “Adhering to these duties is why, after close review, my office will defend the agencies sued over House Bill 2 that seek our representation.”
The Ultrasound Informed Consent Act (House Bill 2) requires medical staff to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion and allow the woman to see it if she chooses. It also requires the medical staff to describe the image of the unborn child, its size, organs and other features and allow the mother to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
In the lawsuit, the ACLU claims the law is unconstitutional because it violates doctors’ freedom of speech by requiring them to deliver a “government-mandated” message, the Huffington Post reports. The lawsuit also contends that the ultrasound law would violate women’s right to privacy and bodily integrity.
Gov. Bevin responded to the attorney general’s remarks on Facebook, according to the local news report:
Bevin took to Facebook Live to blast Beshear, saying that the attorney general isn’t fulfilling his duties.
“Our attorney general apparently is under the impression that he gets to pick and choose when he does his job,” Bevin said. “He has made clear that he’s going to pander to liberal donors rather than you the voters. You should be outraged, you should be offended, you should demand and expect better than that.”
Both anti-abortion bills easily passed the Republican-controlled state legislature, with many Democrats voting for the measure, too.
“This is something that is widely popular, the vast majority of Kentuckians want this,” Bevin said. “Shame on our attorney general for playing partisan politics rather than doing his job.”
Kentucky lawmakers have been trying to pass legislation such as the ultrasound bill for years, but the legislation always failed to pass the Democrat-controlled state House. Reuters reports 2017 is the first year that Republicans have had a majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives since 1921.