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Ky. Legislature Passes Abortion 'Discrimination' Bill; ACLU Says It's Suing

Capitol Rotunda in Kentucky
Ed Reinke

The Kentucky Senate has voted to ban doctors from performing abortions if they believe the person seeking the procedure wants it because of the fetus' race, sex or a disability. The measure now heads to Gov. Matt Bevin for final approval.

Within minutes of the bill's passage, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would sue to block it.

Heather Gatnarek, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Kentucky, said the bill would interfere with a person's right to decide whether to end a pregnancy.

"The passage of House Bill 5 represents a thinly veiled effort of the Kentucky General Assembly to advance their anti-abortion agenda under the guise of an anti-discrimination bill. This law will do nothing to improve the lives of Kentuckians with disabilities," Gatnarek said in a statement.

House Bill 5 is one of several anti-abortion bills proposed during this year's legislative session and will become the latest in a long line of legal challenges between the ACLU and the Bevin administration.

Bevin responded to the announcement on Twitter, saying "Bring it! Kentucky will always fight for life… Always!"

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a Republican from Winchester, sponsored the bill in the Senate. He said the measure would prevent discrimination.

"House Bill 5 would hold the abortionist accountable for performing an abortion for a specific reason: because the baby is a boy or a girl, because the baby is a particular race or because they might be born with a known or suspected disability," Alvarado said.

Alvarado is a candidate for lieutenant governor on Bevin's re-election ticket this year.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, a Democrat from Lexington, said that if lawmakers wanted to be "pro-life," they should vote for more social service and education funding.

"If you want to be pro-family…let's fund public education so every child in this state can have a quality education, rather than nickel and diming them to death. Let's fix our broken welfare system and health care system," Thomas said.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 32-5.

The legislature is considering several other anti-abortion measures, including a ban on the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — about the sixth week of pregnancy.

Bevin has signed off on several new abortion restrictions in recent years, including a ban on abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy, an ultrasound abortion requirement and a ban on an abortion procedure commonly used in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Federal courts have temporarily struck down the ultrasound requirement and the ban on “dilation and evacuation” abortions while lawsuits over the policies are pending.

A federal court also struck down Kentucky’s law requiring abortion clinics to have written agreements with a hospital and ambulance services in case of emergencies, which Bevin had used to revoke the license of EMW Women's Surgical Center, the only abortion provider in the state.

This story first appeared on WFPL. For more stories like this, visit now

Ryland Barton is WFPL's Managing Editor for Collaboratives.