Price on Politics: The Kentucky abortion bill

Price Wilborn, Commentary writer

For weeks a bill introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives was debated in and out of the state legislature. The bill, House Bill 3, was passed in the House on March 29 but vetoed by Governor Andy Beshear on April 8. The House and the Senate voted to override the veto on April 13.

The law is expected to be taken to court with critics claiming it is unconstitutional. The bill bans abortions after 15 weeks, makes access to the procedures harder than ever and as few exceptions for rape and incest.

In his veto message, Governor Beshear cited the lack of exceptions for rape and incest, as well as the ruled unconstitutionality of similar bills across the nation. He wrote that “Rape and incest are violent crimes. Victims of these crimes should have options, not be further scarred through a process that exposes them to more harm from their rapists or that treats them like offenders themselves.”

He goes on to write that “House Bill 3 is likely unconstitutional,” citing specific actions that the United States Supreme Court has already declared unconstitutional.

The governor was right in vetoing HB 3. The bill does not provide protections for victims of rape and incest and it does not make the process easy for a minor to receive an abortion. The bill essentially bans abortions entirely, making Kentucky the first state to do so.

Many pro-life activists oppose abortion for religious reasons. This simply shouldn’t be the case. Not every person in the United States is a Christian. Not every Christian practices their religion the same. Restricting access to abortion on religious grounds imposes religious beliefs on people who do not believe the same.

Restricting access to abortion on any grounds is in no way the prerogative of any government. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is a deeply personal decision, one that no one takes lightly. Termination of a pregnancy is something that takes great thought.

A government has no place telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. Lawmakers in Frankfort and Washington are in no way affected by a woman’s decision to have an abortion. The decision lies with the woman alone. No government official has any right to tell someone hundreds or thousands of miles away what they can or can’t do with their own body.

The reality is that abortion restrictions do not lower abortion rates. A 2018 study showed exactly this. When abortions are restricted around the world, the number of illegal, unsafe procedures rise.

This is a reality that lawmakers cannot change. Allowing access to abortions, however, opens up options to women contemplating the procedure. Legal abortions protects the health and safety of the woman, which is the most important part of the procedure.

In 2022, the United States of America should not restrict abortions like it has. A woman deciding to get an abortion should be able to have options to do so without having to go to illegal practices.

Along with not restricting abortions, the state and federal legislatures must make the ability to get contraceptives easier. Reducing funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood is not the way to go about this. Yes, the organization provides abortion services, but it also provides services like STI testing, cancer screenings, preventative care and birth control.

Services like those that Planned Parenthood provide not only create a safer environment for care but also destigmatize all aspects of birth control and abortion. Creating a welcoming, safe environment allows women to discuss and evaluate all their options.

The decision to get an abortion is a deeply personal one, one that is not taken lightly. The fact is that they will still happen. Providers will still be available, but the safety for all involved will no longer be guaranteed.

On April 21 a federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of HB 3. The prerogative of the government is to keep its citizens safe. This includes allowing access to safe abortions and other prenatal care. 

The Kentucky and United States governments will not stop abortions from taking place. If they truly care about the safety of women and children, they would not block abortions but instead create an environment where these women and their decisions can be accepted for what they are: valid.

I once came across a short musical video that claimed that people in power only think that “kids only matter when they’re not born yet.” I don’t disagree. As I’ve said in previous pieces, if the Kentucky State Legislature feels any responsibility at all for the future of the state, as well as for the protection and safety of its citizens, they would do what is right and not allow this law to stand.

I truly believe that the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a wonderful state. It falls short in many areas, however. The state has a chance to be a model of inclusion, safety and excellence but instead wishes to prevent progress in exchange for stagnation, safety for comfort and values of inclusion for values of division.

The state must allow access to abortions while expanding access to prenatal care. It makes sense. It’s moral. It’s the right thing to do.

Instead of thinking about the present, it’s time for the state legislature to think about the future. It’s time for the state legislature to at least act like they care for the safety of women and for the safety of the future.

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.