States continue to codify their principles on the issue of abortion in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and now Kentucky and Florida have weighed in by passing 15-week abortion restrictions.
Kentucky lawmakers passed a restrictive abortion bill earlier this year, but Democrat Andy Beshear vetoed it. The legislature, which is overwhelmingly Republican, overrode his veto by a wide margin, with the House voting 76-21 and the Senate 31-6 to make the bill law.
The law bans abortions after 15 weeks and also requires parental consent for a minor seeking an abortion. The law also bans the use of telehealth to prescribe abortion drugs; a patient must have an in-person exam by a healthcare provider to receive the Plan B abortion pills, such as mifepristone and misoprostol, and a follow-up in-person exam is also required 7 to 14 days after the abortion. In addition, the law requires abortion providers to institute a reporting system that tracks the abortions performed.
Some pro-choice protestors stormed the Capitol as legislators debated, with advocates chanting, “bans off our bodies.” Republican Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick responded, “It absolutely makes me sick to have to listen to what’s going on out there.” She added, “The abortion of a baby is plain wrong. And I pray that God would have mercy on anyone that would take the life of a child. There’s no mercy for that baby in abortion.”
Republican Sen. Stephen Meredith, who described abortion as a “stain on our country,” noted, “If a mother can kill her own child, what prevents us from killing ourselves and one another?”
Planned Parenthood Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville have already filed two lawsuits asking a federal judge to block the new law from taking effect.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Great Northwest said, “Make no mistake: the Kentucky Legislature’s sole goal with this law is to shut down health centers and completely eliminate abortion access in the state. We are confident that the courts will stop this cruel and unconstitutional omnibus.”
Meanwhile, Florida has passed a 15-week abortion restriction as well, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law yesterday. The law, known as the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act, replaces the state’s 24-week abortion restriction and will go into effect on July 1.
“We’re here today to protect life,” DeSantis said during a signing ceremony. The law, “protects the rights of unborn children starting at 15 weeks. This is a time where these babies have beating hearts. They can move, they can taste, they can see, they can feel pain, they can suck their thumb, and they have brain waves. Life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection, and I am proud to sign this great piece of legislation which represents the most significant protections for life in the state’s modern history.”
The law also institutes measures to reduce infant mortality.
Senate President Wilton Simpson, R, who was adopted and grew up with foster siblings, said lawmakers decided on the 15-week restriction because they believe the Supreme Court will at least uphold that limit in their Dobbs ruling.
“Every abortion kills a special and unique human being who deserves protection under the laws of this state and the chance to grow up in a loving family,” Simpson said. “Floridians can be proud that we live in a state that not only protects innocent, unborn life, but also supports children and parents.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, however, called the bill’s signing, “a dark day for women in Florida. This extreme abortion ban is not only cruel, immoral, and inhumane — it violates both the Florida and the U.S. constitutions. It’s an insult to the dignity of women and our ability to make decisions about our own lives.”
However, during the signing ceremony, women who have had abortions testified about their experience, their regrets, and how their voices have been silenced for too long. These included Heather Grall Barwick who had an abortion when she was 21.
“There are two types of people that have led me to speak up. The women who say that abortion does not cause mental distress, and the women in their 70s who had abortions and testified that just now they’re able to speak about them and the regret that they have felt for over 40 years,” she said. “I made a mistake that I cannot change, but I can let others learn from my mistake.”
Simone Marstiller, secretary for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, spoke of her decision to keep her child after she became pregnant at the age of 19.
“I went to a physician and was handed a referral for abortion without any counseling,” she recalled. “I decided to keep my baby. And when she was born, yelling and screaming, she was put on my chest and immediately fell silent — that is when I knew I had done the right thing. It takes courage for any woman who finds herself at a crossroads and has to make the toughest decision of their life. I hope hearing my story will encourage someone out there to make a choice and choose life. Do not believe the narrative that a baby will ruin your life and that abortion is the right choice. You WILL be fine and all WILL be well.”
Adoptive mothers also celebrated the birth mothers who could have aborted their children, but instead chose life and adoption. Some of those adopted children stood next to DeSantis as he signed the law.
Terri Kellogg, however, spoke of Hope, her adopted daughter who survived an actual abortion attempt. Kellogg explained to the audience that the child’s birth mother had gone to get an abortion during her first trimester and left believing that the pregnancy had been terminated. But then, at what would have been approximately 22 weeks’ gestation, the birth mother “felt movement and at that point she chose life and adoption.”
Hope today has cerebral palsy and a scar on her forehead as a result of what she endured during the botched procedure.
“When I look at Hope and I see her scar, I am reminded of how God spared her,” Kellogg said. “I’m reminded that she survived an abortion when there’s 2,363 babies that don’t survive it daily. And her scar, it gives evidence to what’s done in secret.”
She added, “I am thankful for my daughter, and I am thankful for her birth mother who chose life when given a second chance. My heart is full to be here with all of you who have done so much to stand for life.”
Gov. DeSantis continues to be a champion for the values of his own constituents by signing this pro-life legislation and pushing pro-life policies. Beshear, however, continues to attempt to thwart the wishes of Kentuckians. He not only vetoed this legislation, but also a bill banning biological males from competing in women’s sports. The legislature also overrode that veto.
This is hardly out of character for Beshear. He refused to defend the pro-life duly passed legislation that Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron decided to defend in court, for example. And even when he served as the Attorney General, Beshear not only refused to defend pro-life legislation, but he routinely sued then-Gov. Matt Bevin, R, for pushing conservative policies.
This is the difference between a leader who honors the wishes of the people — a true hallmark of representative democracy — and one who pursues his own whims and the whims of special interests.