Kentucky Senate chamber (photo by Daderot [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons)
Kentucky Senate chamber (photo by Daderot [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons)

A new bill filed in the Kentucky Senate would require testing for the presence of a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion, and if a fetal heartbeat were detected, the bill would outlaw the performing of the abortion except in certain cases of medical emergency.

In addition, anyone performing an abortion after detecting a fetal heartbeat would be guilty of a Class D felony.

Since a fetal heartbeat is usually detectable at approximately six weeks into the pregnancy (before many women even realize they are pregnant), this bill would outlaw almost all abortions after six weeks.

The bill, Senate Bill 9 (SB9), has already had two readings in committee, and could be passed by the Senate in this opening week.

Significant features of SB9, the “fetal heartbeat” bill

  1. Require a person who intends to perform an abortion to determine whether the unborn human individual has a detectable fetal heartbeat
  2. Prohibit a person from performing an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat
  3. Provide exceptions for medical emergencies, and require documentation of that medical emergency
  4. Specify that nothing in the Act restricts access to contraceptives
  5. Allow a woman to file a civil action for the wrongful death of her unborn child
  6. Require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to inspect the medical records of a facility that performs abortions to ensure compliance with reporting requirements
  7. Permit the Attorney General to apply to a state or federal court for a declaration that the Act’s provisions are constitutional, or an order lifting an injunction if one exists, if federal abortion law changes
  8. Allow the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to suspend or revoke the license of any physician for violations
  9. Establish criminal penalties for violations of the provisions of the bill
  10. Put the bill in the Emergency status, which means it would take effect as soon as it was signed into law by the governor, instead of the normal July date for implementation of legislation

If the bill is passed by both houses and signed by Governor Bevin, it will immediately be challenged in court. The reference to “federal abortion law” in (g) above relates to the changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the hopes of the sponsors of the bill that it would be upheld by the current court.

Sponsors of SB9 include 19 of the chamber’s 28 Republicans: Castlen, Westerfield, Alvarado, Carpenter, Carroll, Embry, Girdler, Harris, Higdon, Hornback, Meredith, Mills, Robinson, Schickel, Seum, Smith, Thayer, Wilson,  and Wise.

Republicans not signed on as sponsors include Adams, Buford, Givens, Humphries, Kerr, McDaniel, Schroder, Stivers, and West. None of the Senate Democrats are sponsors.

The bill as filed is here (PDF).