Arguing that some Kentucky legislators routinely file bills that would be, if enacted, harmful to women, activists rallied Saturday outside the state Capitol to support what they called "reproductive justice" in advance of the 2014 General Assembly session.
Roughly 75 activists caravanned from Louisville to Frankfort to advocate for legislation that would expand access to abortion and contraceptives, family support programs and comprehensive, science-based sex education.
Speakers at the rally lambasted what some called "religious conservatives" in Kentucky legislature who constantly introduce legislation that they claim harm low-income women.
"In Kentucky, year after year, there are proposals that continue to go before the legislature that would seek to limit a person's access to comprehensive sexuality education; seek to limit a person's access to the full range of pregnancy-related healthcare, including contraception and abortion; and seek to deny family support," Dawn Cooley, a minister at Louisville's First Unitarian Church, told the crowd.
"When one, particular, narrow religious perspective gets written into law," Cooley continued, "it denies the reality that there are other faith perspectives that are crying for wholeness, and crying for justice."
In just the past few years, the General Assembly has introduced—but has yet passed into law—the kinds of restrictive legislation which rally-goers took to task. One often referenced piece of proposed legislation was a bill introduced by Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Marion, during the 2013 regular session of the General Assembly that would have mandated women seeking abortions to undergo invasive ultrasound procedures.
Democratic Louisville Rep. Mary Lou Marzian says such bills are routine in the legislature.
"They have had bills that say life begins at conception, bills that require clinic regulations. It's just one thing after another," Marzian said.
Marzian told Kentucky Public Radio that she plans to file in the upcoming session a bill that would expand the scope of public sex education to include age-appropriate information on contraception and science-based material relating to human reproduction.
It would be "the sixth or seventh time" she has filed it, she said.
"Kids need to learn tools of how to have self-esteem and how to say no, and not just think sex is just this taboo thing that they do in the backseat of a car."
While sex education is a requirement in Kentucky public schools curricula, the state is one of nearly a dozen which requires courses on human reproduction to be abstinence-based.
The rally was organized by the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network and the ACLU of Kentucky.