FRANKFORT – The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a pro-life bill that would ban abortions in Kentucky after 15-weeks gestation on Thursday.
Senate Bill 321 mirrors Mississippi legislation being considered by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, a case that could undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade. The high court is expected to issue a ruling in June.
“I’m bringing this bill to you so that, in the event the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi legislation as constitutional, we will have a pro-life law in place that would not be subject to a good faith legal challenge,” said Sen. Max Wise, a primary sponsor of SB 321.
Wise noted SB 321 requires the probable gestational age of a fetus to be determined by a physician “within reasonable probability.” SB 321 also grants the Attorney General of Kentucky and the state Board of Medical Licensure authority to defend the bill on the behalf of the commonwealth and enforce its provisions.
Under current law, abortions cannot be performed in Kentucky after 20-weeks probable post-fertilization—or 22-weeks gestation.
“This bill is filled with non-medical terminology, false information and inflammatory language that is focused on shaming and falsely informing the non-medical community,” said Dr. Brittany Myers, an OBGYN resident at the University of Louisville.
Myers also said the 15-week limit is a “theoretical gestational age chosen with no regard for actual embryo logic.”
SB 321 notes that an unborn child’s heart begins beating between 5- and 6-weeks gestation and at 12-weeks gestation the child can open and close his or her fingers and “senses stimulation from the world outside the womb.”
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology affirms that by 12-weeks gestation, the brain and spine of a fetus have begun to form, facial muscles form, fingers and toes develop, kidneys begin making urine, the pancreas starts making insulin, eyelids form but remain closed and cartilage for limbs develop. According to Cleveland Clinic, a fetus “is fully formed” at the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.
“What we didn’t know at the Roe decision…is that the child, at 15 weeks, has a heartbeat. That child, at 15 weeks, will respond to painful stimuli in utero,” said Addia Wuchner, a former neonatal nurse who serves as executive director of Kentucky Right to Life.
Tamarra Wieder, the state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates East, said the General Assembly should wait on the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs before attempting to move the threshold for legal abortion in Kentucky.
Senate Bill 231 passed with an 8-2 vote.
Sen. Karen Berg called the bill a “medical sham,” while Sen. Gerald Neal said it simplifies a complex question. Both voted no.
Senate Bill 321 is the second pro-life bill advancing through the General Assembly in this session. House Bill 3 sponsored by Rep. Nancy Tate, Brandenburg, is a more sweeping omnibus bill that will regulate abortion. That measure requires women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication. About half of abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures. The bill has been referred to a Senate committee for review.