Last minute Kentucky bill would add exceptions to state abortion ban

A bill aimed at easing Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban by creating limited exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest has been introduced in the GOP-dominated House.

Legislation aimed at easing Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban by creating limited exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest was introduced Monday in the GOP-dominated House, as lawmakers wrangle with an issue at the forefront of last year’s campaign for governor.

Republican state Rep. Ken Fleming filed the measure on the last day that new House bills could be introduced in this year’s 60-day session. The bill’s prospects are uncertain, with House Speaker David Osborne saying the chamber’s GOP supermajority has not discussed any particular abortion bill.

Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban has been in place since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The state’s so-called trigger law took effect, banning abortions except when carried out to save the mother’s life or to prevent a disabling injury. It does not include exceptions for cases of rape or incest.


Fleming’s proposal would change that by making abortions legal in cases of rape and incest if done no later than six weeks after the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, according to a statement describing the bill. The measure also would allow an abortion to remove a dead fetus and in cases of a lethal fetal anomaly, meaning the fetus wouldn’t survive after birth.

“We all encounter difficult heart-wrenching decisions in life,” Fleming said in the statement. “As a father of two daughters, I have always supported them financially, emotionally, and especially spiritually. With them on my mind and in my heart, exceptions for life-saving measures for the mother and in cases involving rape or incest should be included in our state’s abortion law.”

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Current exceptions to save the mother’s life or prevent disabling injuries would remain under his bill.

The measure also includes a provision creating a process for physicians to document the circumstances surrounding an abortion performed under state law.

The last-minute bill filing mirrors another GOP lawmaker’s attempt last year to relax the state’s abortion ban. That measure, also filed on the last day for bill introductions in the House, made no headway as the abortion issue was skipped over in 2023 by the legislature’s Republican supermajorities.

The issue rose to the forefront of Kentucky’s hotly contested governor’s race last year. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, an abortion-rights supporter who won reelection to a second term, hammered away at his Republican challenger’s support of the state’s sweeping abortion ban.

Kentucky’s Supreme Court refused to strike down the ban last year. The justices, however, ruled on narrow legal issues but left unanswered the larger constitutional questions about whether access to abortion should be legal in the Bluegrass State.

In late 2023, a Kentucky woman sued to demand the right to an abortion, but her attorneys later withdrew the lawsuit after she learned her embryo no longer had cardiac activity. In 2022, Kentucky voters rejected a ballot measure aimed at denying any constitutional protections for abortion.

Kentucky is one of 14 states with a ban on abortions at all stages of pregnancy currently in effect.

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Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the nationwide right to abortion, bans of some kind have kicked in in most Republican-controlled states. Two — Georgia and South Carolina — ban abortion once cardiac activity can be detected, around six weeks into pregnancy and before women often realize they’re pregnant. Utah and Wyoming have bans on abortion throughout pregnancy, but enforcement has been paused by courts while they weigh whether the laws comply with the state constitutions.

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