Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed the so-called “born alive” abortion bill, saying that doctors are already required to give life-saving medical care to infants that survive abortions.
The bill, which passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, also would have given Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron power to regulate abortions in the state and shut down providers during the coronavirus pandemic.
During his daily press conference on Friday, Beshear said that supporters of the bill sought to create divisions during the coronavirus pandemic.
“A whole bunch of lawsuits that would be out there and would be pulling people one way or another, creating discord in the middle of a time where we’ve got to be together, I just didn’t think was the right direction for us to go,” Beshear said.
Besides giving the attorney general more power to enforce abortion regulations, the bill would have done little to change Kentucky’s abortion laws.
The state already bans abortions during or after the 20th week in pregnancy, earlier than a fetus would be able to survive outside the womb.
Still, Republicans slammed the governor’s veto on Friday. House Speaker David Osborne said he was “outraged and saddened” by Beshear’s veto.
“Make no mistake, the Governor had a choice and he used it to defend the indefensible,” Osborne wrote in a statement. “This is about protecting a human life outside of the womb. It is a miracle for an infant to survive an abortion and to not render assistance is unthinkable.”
Attorney General Cameron called Beshear’s veto “disheartening,” saying that his office should have the authority to “hold abortion clinics accountable to the law.”
“The people of Kentucky elected me to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth, and I had hoped that Governor Beshear would welcome having me as a partner with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in enforcing our health and safety laws, rather than rebuking the people’s wishes,” Cameron wrote in a statement.
Anti-abortion activists have criticized Beshear for not shutting down Kentucky’s two abortion providers under his ban on elective procedures during the pandemic.
The bill was amended on the last day of the legislative session, defining abortion as an elective procedure and giving Cameron the power to shut down providers during the state of emergency.
Cameron is Kentucky’s first Republican attorney general since 1947.
Conservative state legislatures, governors and attorney generals across the country have tried to restrict abortions during the pandemic, claiming the procedure should be considered an elective procedure.
A federal court in Ohio has ruled doctors can still perform abortions during the pandemic despite the state banning the procedure, except in cases when a woman’s life is in danger.
Tammara Wieder, Kentucky director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky, praised Beshear for his veto.
“Not only is this bill unnecessary, it is a blatant display of anti-abortion politics by extremists in the Kentucky General Assembly,” Wieder wrote in a statement. “A global pandemic is not the time to play political games with people’s lives. This veto by the governor shows true leadership in a time when it is needed most.”
The legislative session ended on April 15, so lawmakers will not have the opportunity to override Beshear’s veto.