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Claims made in ‘Yes for Life’ ad around KY abortion vote are misleading. Here’s the reality.

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This article is cross-posted with permission from the Herald-Leader. Read the original here.

A group that supports changing the Kentucky Constitution to ensure there is no protected right to abortion or the funding of abortions has aired its first television ad.

With less than three weeks to go until the November 8 election, the first TV ad from Yes For Life, a campaign urging a “yes” vote on Constitutional Amendment No. 2, is going for shock value.

The 30-second voice over commercial begins, “radical, out-of-state activists want to spend YOUR tax dollars on late-term abortions even up to the moment of birth.”

Featuring pictures of pro-abortion rights protesters holding signs, some of which are handwritten and others from Planned Parenthood, that read, “Bans off our bodies,” and “Keep yo filthy laws off my silky draws,” the ad tells viewers, “This November, you can stop them by voting Yes on Amendment 2, which stops taxpayer-funded, late-term abortions.”

The ad, which hit airwaves Monday, then transitions to a close-up shot of a baby’s feet, then a toddler blowing out her birthday candles. The ad tells viewers that a “yes” vote is a “reasonable, common sense vote.”

The 30-second spot relies on conservative buzzwords and phrases that are aimed at grabbing viewer attention but are ultimately misleading and inaccurate.

Debunking the commercial

The “radical, out-of-state activists” the ad references are likely Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, which have funneled nearly $1.4 million into Protect Kentucky Access, the opposing campaign aiming to defeat the constitutional amendment. Protect Kentucky Access has raised five-times as much money as Yes For Life.

But much of Yes For Life’s first ad, relying on charged phraseology often peddled by conservatives, is misleading and inaccurate.

“Late-term abortion” typically refers to an abortion at roughly 21 weeks of pregnancy. Rarely, and typically only for medically-necessary reasons, are abortions provided later than that. Late-term abortions “even up to the moment of birth,” is largely a misnomer.

In Kentucky last year, 26 of the 4,441 total abortions provided — or about .6% — were at 21 weeks of pregnancy, according to the state Office of Vital Statistics. There were no other abortions reported at a later stage of pregnancy in 2021. Of the 18,614 total abortions reported in Kentucky since 2017, 13 were at or beyond 22 weeks of pregnancy.

The ad also urges a “yes” vote to stop “taxpayer-funded abortions” — something that is already illegal under Kentucky law and regulated by federal law. The Hyde Amendment bars the use of federal aid programs, like Medicaid, to pay for abortion.

When the Legislature passed an omnibus anti-abortion bill this year over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto, it codified into law this prohibition: “Public agency funds shall not be directly or indirectly used, granted, paid or distributed to any entity, organization, or individual that performs, induces, refers for, or counsels in favor of abortion.”

Simply stated, according to House Bill 3, “public agency funds shall not be used for the purpose of obtaining an abortion or paying for the performance of abortion.”

Addia Wuchner, Yes For Life’s campaign manager and executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, has made a point of referencing what she calls “disinformation” from the other side throughout this campaign. At a Yes For Life rally in Frankfort on October 1, Wuchner told the crowd, “It’s not nice to lie to Kentucky women,” and, “It’s just not nice to lie to us, right ladies?”

In a statement on Tuesday, Wuchner called a “yes” vote on Amendment No. 2 a “reasonable, commonsense vote to protect the vulnerable and safeguard our tax dollars.”

The television ad is likely the final push for Yes For Life, a campaign that has been trounced in fundraising by its opponent Protect Kentucky Access, the group working to defeat the constitutional amendment that has aired two ads of its own.

Combined, the groups have raked in more than $3.6 million, according to campaign finance filings.

Yes For Life is financially propped up by religiously-affiliated groups like the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and the Family Foundation of Kentucky. The campaign spent more than $52,000 on the ad that hit airwaves Monday and will run through November 6 on stations across Kentucky, including WBKO in Bowling Green and WYMT in Hazard.

What the amendment means for abortion access

Constitutional Amendment No. 2, which will appear on ballots statewide, asks Kentuckians to vote “yes” or “no” to the following question: “Are you in favor of amending the Constitution of Kentucky by creating a new Section of the Constitution . . . to state as follows: to protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion?”

If the amendment prevails and the constitution is changed, it would not equal an abortion ban. But if Kentucky’s restrictive abortion laws are challenged, adding this paragraph to the constitution means courts could not interpret a right to abortion as existing within the constitution. Supporters of the change often laud it as a necessary step to prevent “pro-abortion judges” from enacting a local version of Roe v. Wade in Kentucky.

But really what it will do is boost the General Assembly’s power in regulating abortion.

Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban first went into effect in late June, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe, giving states full regulatory control over the medical procedure. A legal challenge from the state’s two abortion providers suspended the trigger law temporarily in the summer, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals reinstated the statewide ban in early August.

Constitutional Amendment No. 2, like the trigger law, is a product of a GOP-backed law, passed in 2021 by the Republican supermajority General Assembly.

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Written by Alex Acquisto, who covers health and social services for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. She joined the newspaper in June 2019 as a corps member with Report for America, a national service program made possible in Kentucky with support from the Blue Grass Community Foundation. She’s from Owensboro, Ky., and previously worked at the Bangor Daily News and other newspapers in Maine.

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