A new Kentucky bill would protect unborn babies from abortion beginning when their heartbeat is detectable.
State Rep. Robert Goforth, a Republican from East Bernstadt, pre-filed the legislation this week for the 2019 legislative session, Lex 18 News reports. If enacted, it would ban most abortions in Kentucky.
“My proposal recognizes that everyone has a right to life,” Goforth said, WKYT reports. “My personal belief is that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. A heartbeat proves that there’s life that deserves protection under law—if a heart is beating, a baby needs to be protected and given an opportunity to live.”
Unborn babies’ heartbeats are detectable around six weeks of pregnancy, though research suggests a baby’s heartbeat may begin as early as 18 days after conception. At six weeks, some women do not even know they are pregnant yet.
The legislation would require abortion facilities to check for the unborn baby’s heartbeat before performing an abortion. If there is a detectable heartbeat, the abortion would be illegal, and those who violate the rule could be charged with a Class D felony. Exceptions would be allowed for medical emergencies.
Goforth’s reasons for wanting to protect the unborn are personal as well as political. He said his children were born very prematurely, weighing about 2 pounds each, and spent 23 weeks in the hospital before they were well enough to go home, WYMT reports.
“Some states perform abortions when the gestation is even further along than my children were when they were born,” he said. “We’re talking about viable babies. They are children. We owe it to all children to stand up and fight for them. This is the most pro-life piece of the legislation that has ever been filed in the Kentucky Legislature.”
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Heartbeat bills have been met with skepticism in the past, even by many pro-life groups, because of pro-abortion legal challenges. Goforth acknowledge the possibility of a legal challenge, but he said babies’ lives are worth the fight.
The Ohio legislature passed a similar heartbeat bill earlier this week.
North Dakota and Arkansas passed heartbeat bills several years ago, but federal courts struck down both laws. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said the following about their ruling on the six-week ban: “Because there is no genuine dispute that (North Dakota’s law) generally prohibits abortions before viability — as the Supreme Court has defined that concept — and because we are bound by Supreme Court precedent holding that states may not prohibit pre-viability abortions, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiffs.”
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the cases in 2016.
There is more hope that the new conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court may consider an abortion ban, but it is difficult to say if it would for certain. Some legal scholars have speculated that the new conservative court would be more likely to consider cases that gradually chip away at Roe v. Wade rather than reverse it completely.