Bill seeks abortion access exceptions

Published 10:49 am Friday, January 12, 2024

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By Tessa Redmond

Kentucky Today

A bill that would provide limited exceptions to Kentucky’s abortion ban was introduced Tuesday by Senate Minority Whip David Yates, D-Louisville.

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“Hadley’s Law” — named for the Owensboro rape survivor and advocate featured in Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign ads last fall — is seeking abortion access for survivors of rape and incest, nonviable pregnancies and women facing health complications due to pregnancy.

“It’s wrong, it’s cruel, it’s overreaching government intrusion,” Yates said of the state’s abortion bans. “We should have compassion; we should have empathy.”

Yates said women and girls who survive rape “should not continue to be violated by the state. The commonwealth of Kentucky should not remove that choice and continue to victimize those survivors.”

Current Kentucky law provides exceptions for the life and health of the mother, but Yates said the provision is “so narrowly written, so ambiguous, that it is almost non-existent.”

Acknowledging that abortion presents a “strong moral dilemma” for members of the legislature, Yates called on fellow lawmakers to “step up and act” and pass Hadley’s Law with bipartisan support.

“When you pass an abortion ban, you force that belief on other individuals,” Yates said in response to a media question. “Regardless of how you morally, individually believe…this is about whether or not those victims will be given a choice or be re-victimized by the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Yates wrote the bill, 45 pages of which was made available to media prior to being filed in Frankfort, in a narrow manner to provide the best possible chance for passage through Kentucky’s heavily Republican legislature. He also indicated that several Republican officers and legislators in Frankfort had signaled support for limited exceptions to Kentucky’s abortion ban, including Attorney General Russell Coleman and the office of Secretary of State Michael Adams.

“There is no belief that this is somehow a fix-all,” Yates said. “I believe this is a very small step in the right direction for a very limited amount of victims we can help.”

Hadley Duvall, the bill’s namesake, said it was “important” when she spoke at Tuesday’s press conference.

“I decided to speak out (because) I want people to understand, to think through the real-world implications of the current law in Kentucky,” Duvall said.

Duvall was sexually abused by her stepfather and became pregnant at age 12. Under Kentucky’s abortion ban “I would have had no choice,” she said.

“We’re not trying to force anybody to have an abortion; we’re fighting for that choice,” Duvall said. “You shouldn’t force birth on anybody.”