FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A proposed pro-life constitutional amendment passed its first legislative hurdle on Thursday, winning passage from a House committee.
Members of the Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee approved the bill on an 11-3 vote.
Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, is the sponsor of House Bill 91, which simply states, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
“The same bill passed the House last year by a 71-21 margin, but was not considered by the Senate, due to the early COVID adjournment,” he said.
Fischer pointed out, “The right to abortion today is nowhere to be found in our state constitution, or in the U.S. Constitution for that matter. House Bill 91 simply assures that no Kentucky court will ever be able to fashion an explicit or implicit right to abortion from the language of our Constitution. There will be no Roe v. Wade decision in Kentucky.”
Dr. Elizabeth Case, an OB-GYN from Mt. Sterling, spoke against the bill, citing an example of a mother whose life is in danger due to a pregnancy. “I would rather save one life than lose both. This bill raises the specter that a doctor who provides medical care would be subject to criminal prosecution. It abhors me that a pregnant woman who requires urgent medical care may not get it because a doctor is unsure of whether they would be prosecuted for doing their job.”
Fischer said there are exemptions for issues with the life of the mother. “This has nothing to do with the statutes themselves. All the statutes contain an exemption to preserve the life of the mother in every case. All this does is amend our constitution. It has nothing to do with what is in the statutes.”
Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, questioned the timing of the bill, especially given that many people are now suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the measure can’t be placed on the ballot until next year.
“It bothers me that I don’t see us solving problems that affect people today. I’m as pro-life as anybody on this committee. I’m just really concerned that we are taking the time to debate this constitutional amendment that won’t be on the ballot for a year-and-a-half. We only have two constitutional amendments that we can put on the ballot and, with this pandemic, there may be something else that we may really need to do later.”
In the end, he passed on the vote.
Fischer responded that lawmakers can deal with a variety of issues during a short session like this year. He also said this eliminates what is known as “forum shopping,” with pro-life bills. “If someone wanted to challenge, even though it’s been challenged in federal court and upheld, they could still challenge that now in state court.”
The bill passed 11-3 and now heads to the House floor.