Bill adds exception for rape, incest to state abortion ban Skip to content

Bill adds exception for rape, incest to state abortion ban

On the last day for new bills in the House, Republican Ken Fleming of Louisville filed a bill to modify the state’s abortion ban.

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A Republican state lawmaker has filed legislation to add abortion exceptions for rape and incest and clarify what constitutes legal abortion for unviable pregnancy under Kentucky’s abortion ban.

The bill is House Bill 711, and the sponsor is Rep. Ken Fleming (R-Louisville), chair of the House personnel, public retirement, and finance budget subcommittee. Fleming filed the exceptions on Monday – the last day for new bills to be filed in the House for consideration during the current legislative session, which ends by April 15.

Fleming said he filed the rape and incest exceptions as a “father of two daughters” in a statement from the House Majority Caucus released Monday night.

“With them on my mind and in my heart, exceptions for life-saving measures for the mother and in cases involving rape or incest should be included in our state’s abortion law,” Fleming said. “HB 711 leaves the abortion law intact while allowing exceptions for life of the mother and for rape and incest.”

Abortions in cases of rape or incest would have to be performed no later than six weeks into pregnancy to be legal under Fleming’s proposal, according to the caucus press release.

HB 711 would also “clarify,” the release says, that abortion is legal in cases of a dead unborn fetus, ectopic pregnancy, or incomplete miscarriage, or if there is a fetal anomaly that would result in a child’s death shortly after it is born. 

Language directing physicians how to best document “the circumstances surrounding an abortion performed under state law” is also part of the bill, the release says.

Lack of exceptions for rape and incest under Kentucky’s abortion ban were major talking points during the 2023 Kentucky governor’s race, with Gov. Andy Beshear saying he supports the exceptions and then-Attorney General Daniel Cameron deferring to the legislature on the issue. 

Kentucky’s abortion ban — enacted by state lawmakers in 2019 and triggered by the 2022 reversal of Roe v. Wade —  is a near-total ban that only provides exceptions for abortions performed to save the mother’s life or prevent permanent physical injury to the mother. It is one of 21 state abortion bans nationwide, according to KFF (formerly the Kaiser Foundation). 

Eight of those 21 states have exceptions for rape and incest. Seven have exceptions for lethal fetal conditions that would take a baby’s life shortly after birth. HB 711 would add Kentucky to that list of states with more exceptions, according to the press release received Monday. 

Abortion has been an almost constant issue in the Kentucky General Assembly for years. In 2021,state lawmakers proposed enshrining a ban on abortion in the state constitution. 

Kentuckians rejected the proposed amendment at the polls in 2022.

It is uncertain what HB 711’s chances of passage are at this point in the 60-day legislative, now at day 39 with final passage of a new state budget still looming. Similar legislation (Senate Bill 99) was filed by Louisville Democrat and Senate Minority Whip David Yates in early January. That bill has not yet advanced in the Senate.

After Yates filed his abortion exceptions bill in early January, LINK asked Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates Kentucky state director Tamarra Wieder her agency’s stance on exceptions. At the time, Wieder said exceptions aren’t enough based on experiences in other states like neighboring Indiana – a state where Wieder said a near total abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest and fetal health conditions are met with skepticism. 

“There’s so much riding on hospitals and doctors’ licenses that they don’t feel safe providing the care – even if a patient fits the criteria,” Wieder told LINK nky last month.

Wieder told LINK at the time the best course of action for Kentucky is a complete repeal of the state’s abortion ban if the goal is improved access for women needing abortion care in-state.

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Written by Rebecca Hanchett. Cross-posted from Link NKY.



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