- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A proposed ballot measure aimed at amending Kentucky’s Constitution to ensure it doesn’t offer protections for abortion rights was advanced by a House committee on Thursday.

The proposed constitutional amendment cleared the Republican-led committee after a presentation by abortion-rights supporters was cut short to allow a vote.

The committee chairman, Rep. Kevin Bratcher, said the panel was nearly out of time after a discussion on an unrelated bill lasted nearly two hours. The testimony was cut off before some of the bill’s opponents had a chance to speak.

Democratic lawmakers opposing the bill objected to the quick action on the measure.

“I think it’s very disrespectful to make such broad policy within a committee in 10 minutes,” House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins said.

She noted that the 60-day legislative session passed the halfway point earlier in the week, leaving plenty of time for lawmakers to consider the measure.

“I think most of us on this committee would have no idea what the impact of this constitutional amendment would be,” she said. “Would there be exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother? These are very important, life threatening decisions we’re making here, and to rush it through, I think, is irresponsible.”

The proposal would add language to Kentucky’s Constitution to state it provides no constitutional right to an abortion.

The measure is a preemptive step if the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide decades ago is overturned, said Republican Rep. Joe Fischer, the proposal’s lead sponsor.

“We understand the battleground will go to the states,” he said in an interview. “And this will preempt that battle in Kentucky.”

Fischer was barely into his explanation of the measure when he was cut off when a motion was made to act on the bill. Bratcher then allotted several minutes for opponents to testify.

Jackie McGranahan, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said the measure could lead to government interfere into personal decisions.

“It is time to stop people from imposing their personal beliefs and anti-abortion views on others,” she said. “You all should not have the authority to force someone to stay pregnant against their will.”

The measure would go on this year’s fall ballot for Kentuckians to decide the issue if it clears the legislature.

Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature in the 2017 session. Some of those laws are being challenged in courts, including one that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.


The proposed constitutional amendment is House Bill 67.

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