The 2021 legislative session, though brief, included many predictable attacks on reproductive freedom in Kentucky. Perhaps the most egregious piece of legislation passed was House Bill 91, a proposed amendment to Kentucky’s Constitution that would entirely deny the right to abortion care – even in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening conditions – if Roe is ever weakened or overturned. It would also enshrine an existing law prohibiting private insurance companies from covering abortion care into the Constitution. If approved by Kentucky voters in 2022, this amendment would pre-empt any state court from protecting abortion care in the absence of federal protections.
House Bill 91 is a politically motivated and extreme proposal that has no exceptions. This means a pregnant person could be forced to carry a pregnancy to full term even if there is no viability for the fetus, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. A pregnant person could be forced to remain pregnant even if the pregnancy is a threat to their life.
It’s clear that blanket bans like this will harm everyone, but the most vulnerable Kentuckians will suffer the worst effects. Current laws have already closed providers throughout the state and have proven to have especially dire consequences for already vulnerable people. People with low incomes and in rural areas often cannot seek abortion services elsewhere because they cannot afford to travel out of state, miss work, or pay for child care. Decisions about pregnancy are deeply personal and often complicated. The government should never have the authority to force someone to remain pregnant against their will.
House Bill 91 passed the House and Senate. It now goes to the voters to decide in 2022. If a majority of voters support this extreme measure, it will be adopted. Proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution only need to be passed by the House and Senate to appear on ballots. They do not require any approval from the Governor and the Governor is not able to stop them.
The ACLU of Kentucky is working with allies to inform Kentuckians about implications of this extreme proposal and will stop at nothing to defend Kentuckians’ constitutional right to abortion care.
ACLU-KY staff are already reviewing pre-filed legislation for the 2022 session. We will keep our members apprised of any further attacks on reproductive freedom, as well as any progress we are able to make in the current political climate.
To join the fight for reproductive freedom in Kentucky, follow @ACLUofKY on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, sign up for email action alerts at ACLU-KY.org, and become a member for just $5 at ACLU-KY.org/Join or make a tax-deductible donation at ACLU-KY.org/Give.
This article was written by ACLU of Kentucky Communications Director for the summer newsletter of the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Learn more about KRCRC here.