Beshear allows ‘born alive’ bill to become law without his signature; it’s the first anti-abortion bill he has not vetoed

Gov. Andy Beshear has allowed to become law without his signature an anti-abortion bill that the legislature would have enacted anyway if he had vetoed it, and that critics say is unnecessary.

The new law requires medical providers to give “medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant,” including after a failed abortion. It also requires them to give any “nourishment, medical care, medical treatment and surgical care that is medically appropriate.”

The bill was the first anti-abortion measure not vetoed by Beshear, who had the backing of abortion-rights supporters when he ran for governor in 2019. His office declined to comment.

Samuel Crankshaw, a spokesman for the ACLU of Kentuckytold Daniel Desrochers of the Lexington Herald-Leader, “We are incredibly disappointed Governor Beshear allowed Senate Bill 9 to become law. It is an inflammatory law that was motivated purely by politics and has no basis in the real-life practice of medicine. Lawmakers heard from a physician and advocates who testified to these facts, yet they still passed the legislation to score cheap political points.”

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, said as the Senate passed the bill that it could force doctors to try to save an infant not mature enough to survive. “As a practicing physician who understands better than most in this room the limits of what medicine can and cannot do, I cannot vote for a bill that requires for a physician to do something that is not doable,” she said.

The next day, Dr. Brittany Myers, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Louisville, told a House committee that it would only apply to miscarriages, since abortions can’t be performed in Kentucky after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Before that, a fetus is not viable, and there are already standards of care for physicians to follow to care for a child that is born prematurely, she said.

“This bill does not address any real-world problem in the setting of abortion care in the state of Kentucky,” she said. “This bill’s intent, I believe, is to shame patients and threaten providers and further limit access to abortion care.”
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said, “We’re not asking for extraordinary measures. We are asking for medically appropriate and reasonable measures.”

Told what Beshear had done, Westerfield told the Herald-Leader, “I’m disappointed he didn’t sign it, but I’m grateful he didn’t veto it. I’ll take what I can get.” He noted that it “became law on the 48th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in every state,” Desrochers writes.

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