Opinion: Legislature is moving bill that would restrict abortion rights while ignoring several filed to help babies and mothers

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This opinion was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

By Linda Blackford
Herald-Leader Opinion Editor

Why bother writing about abortion access in Kentucky? The die is cast, as it were, with superdupermajorities in the state House and Senate who can legislate however they want. It’s very possible that in the near future, the Supreme Court will strike down the constitutional right to an abortion, and Kentucky will become once again home to back alleys and wire hangers. We already have a trigger law in place outlawing the practice in Kentucky as soon as the Supreme Court rules.

On Tuesday, March 1, the House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, which for some strange reason now hears abortion bills instead of the Health and Family Services Committee (because Health members might be too touchy-feely?), approved House Bill 3, the new omnibus bill that does all kinds of things to make it even harder to get an abortion here. The bill takes special aim at MAB, medication that can cause an abortion very early on in a pregnancy, and is so safe and effective that it accounts for half of all abortions in Kentucky and was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be sent through the mail directly to people’s homes.
So why shout into the wind (again)? Well, I think it’s worth pointing out that Republicans are not the only ones who care about mothers and babies. The Kentucky House Democratic Women’s Caucus (again) has crafted a slate of maternal health bills, not one of which has been even assigned to committee.
They range from a sales tax exemption for breast pumps to bereavement leave in the case of a child’s death to Medicaid coverage for doulas. House Bill 37 would try to stem Kentucky’s horrific maternal mortality rates, including the fact that Black women die at more than double the rate of white women. According to the 2020 Maternal Mortality Report for Kentucky, in 2017, roughly 76 percent of all maternal deaths were preventable.
One exception is House Bill 174, which would extend Medicaid to new mothers for up to a year, which passed the House, and of course there are some Republicans, like Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, who have worked hard on issues affecting families.
But 16 bills from House Democrats would also address getting new mothers on Medicaid, postpartum depression, parental leave, and new rights for pregnant inmates. In other words, they are all trying to help the lives of mothers and babies in this state — actual people who are already here — in humane and holistic ways.
And let me say this again: None of these bills has been assigned to committee, which tells us that the majority party is not really that interested in doing anything but score political points.
There are two more bills that sit ignored in the Committee on Committees: House Bills 299 and 300 would require health-care plans to cover birth control before and immediately after a pregnancy. If I were worried about unwanted pregnancies, I’d be very interested in getting birth control to more people, but that is both logical and consistent, two words that don’t abound in Frankfort.
Despite what Republicans tell you, no one thinks abortion is grand or wonderful, but as many doctors will tell you, it can be an important part of women’s healthcare that should be between those women and their doctors. The fundamental hypocrisy of the GOP caring only about the unborn is alive and well. Sadly, it will probably be even more on display in the years to come.
Linda Blackford writes columns and commentary for the Herald-Leader. She has covered K-12, higher education and other topics for the past 20 years at the Herald-Leader.
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