Beshear vetoes anti-abortion bill; legislature can’t override

Gov. Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron, on the day Beshear appointed Cameron to fill his unexpired term. Both were elected Nov. 5, but governors take office earlier.

Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a bill that would have required health-care providers to give “medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment” to any infant born alive, including after a failed abortion.

Senate Bill 9 would have also expanded the power of the attorney general to shut down abortion providers and keep abortion from being allowed as an urgent procedure under Beshear’s emergency orders in the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron and other Republicans had said abortion should be considered an elective procedure; Democrats noted that state law bans most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Cameron called the veto “reprehensible” and “an affront to the people of Kentucky.” House Speaker David Osborne said, “The governor had a choice and he used it to defend the indefensible.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly will not be able to override the Democratic governor’s veto, because it passed the bill on the day it had to adjourn, April 15.

Beshear said in his April 24 veto message that “existing Kentucky law already fully protects children from being denied life-saving medical care and treatment when they are born. In addition, bills similar to Senate Bill 9 have been struck down as unconstitutional in the majority of states in America when challenged. During this worldwide health pandemic, it is simply not the time for a divisive set of lawsuits that reduce our unity and our focus on defeating the novel coronavirus and restarting our economy.”

Beshear did not mention the other aspects of the bill in his veto message. Asked about the veto at his daily briefing April 25, he summarized the message and said, “I’m just not doing divisive issues right now. . . . We’ve gotta have unity in this commonwealth.”

Cameron said there’s nothing more divisive than to veto a bill that “protects our most vulnerable.” Some of the protesters who came to the Capitol grounds Saturday to protest against Beshear’s emergency restrictions carried anti-abortion signs.

“Beshear supports abortion rights but backs ‘reasonable restrictions,’ especially on late-term procedures,” notes Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press. “Abortion-rights groups, including Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, praised the governor’s veto. They had denounced the legislation as a ‘power grab’ meant to make it harder for women to obtain abortions.”

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