Kentucky Legislature Passes Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, May Override Governor’s Expected Veto

The Kentucky General Assembly is continuing its fight for life, passing the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act out of the state House and Senate. The bill, S.B. 9, has been sent to Democrat Governor Andrew Beshear’s desk; he is expected to veto the legislation shortly.

The bill, which relates “to the protection of born-alive infants and declaring an emergency,” was passed with overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The state Senate voted in favor of the bill on January 7, where it sailed through by a vote of 32-4. The House approved the bill on January 8 in a 76-18 vote.

S.B. 9 stipulates that a “live birth” means the complete extraction of an infant from its mother, and where the infant “shows any evidence of life, including but not limited to” at least one of the following: “breathing, a heartbeat, umbilical cord pulsation or definite movement of voluntary muscles.”

Legislators argue in the bill, “The Commonwealth of Kentucky has a paramount interest in protecting all human life. If an attempted abortion results in the live birth of an infant, the infant is a legal person for all purposes under the laws of this Commonwealth.”

“It is not an infringement on a woman’s asserted right to terminate her pregnancy for this Commonwealth to affirm its interest in protecting an infant whose live birth occurred as the result of an attempted abortion; and without proper legal protection, newly born infants who survive attempted abortions may be denied appropriate life-saving or life-sustaining medical care and treatment and may be left to die,” the bill states.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Republican State Senator Whitney Westerfield, tweeted his thanks to the state House Republicans for approving the bill the day after the Senate voted in favor of it. According to him, the legislature should be able to override Gov. Beshear’s likely veto, ensuring passage of the bill despite the governor’s opposition.

“My thanks to @reposborne and the @KYHouseGOP for moving forward on SB9, Kentucky’s Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, a bill with broad bipartisan support (≈78% of the GA!), giving us plenty of time this year to override the governor’s anticipated second veto of the bill,” Sen. Westerfield wrote.

An identical bill, also labeled S.B. 9, failed to become law in the state in early 2020 after Gov. Beshear vetoed it. Last year, the legislature was unable to override Gov. Beshear’s veto since both chambers had already recessed for the year, according to the Times-Tribune.

The paper also reports that “a violation [of the law] would be a Class D felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison. Parents would not be criminally liable, only health care providers who violate the bill’s provisions.”

The Kentucky state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) declared the bill and related legislation an attack on “abortion access.”

However, S.B. 9 only relates to what happens to an infant born-alive after a failed abortion, not whether a woman can or cannot access abortion in the first place.

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