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GOP lawmaker files bill to add rape, incest exceptions to Kentucky abortion ban

Alex Acquisto and Austin Horn, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Political News

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Louisville Republican has filed a bill to exempt victims of rape and incest, as well as women with nonviable pregnancies, from the state’s near-total ban on abortion.

Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, filed House Bill 711 on Monday.

While a bill to this end has already been filed this session — Hadley’s Law from Senate Minority Whip David Yates, D-Louisville — Fleming’s bill is the first filed by a Republican this legislative session.

Under Fleming’s bill, a person who is made pregnant through rape or incest could lawfully get an abortion if it’s provided “no later than six weeks” into pregnancy.

The bill also permits a pregnant person to legally get an abortion if they experience an “incomplete miscarriage,” have an ecoptic pregnancy (when a fetus develops outside the uterus), or if their pregnancy is diagnosed with a “lethal fetal anomaly,” meaning the fetus won’t survive after birth.

Abortion has been largely illegal since June of 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, locking Kentucky’s trigger law into place. The trigger law bans abortion unless the medical procedure is “necessary to prevent the death or substantial risk of death ... or to prevent the serious permanent impairment of a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant women,” according to the language of the bill, which was passed in 2019.

 

A separate six-week ban, or fetal heartbeat law, also took effect when Roe fell. It bans the medical procedure after fetal cardiac activity is first detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Neither law includes exceptions for pregnancy cause by rape or incest, or if a pregnancy is diagnosed with a fatal fetal anomaly that is incompatible with life. Fleming’s bill would codify these exceptions, restoring some abortion access statewide.

As the Herald-Leader previously reported, the lack of exceptions in Kentucky’s current abortion bans have forced pregnant women who need medically-recommended terminations — like those carrying a fetus with anencephaly, where the fetal brain and skull do not fully develop — to seek care outside of the commonwealth.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear messaged against the state’s ban on abortion throughout his successful re-election campaign. One particular television advertisement from the Beshear campaign, featuring sexual abuse survivor Hadley Duvall recalling her own rape as a child at the hands of her stepfather, aired for several weeks. Yates’ exceptions bill is named for Duvall.

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