Protesters’ chants echoed at the Kentucky Capitol on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers began pushing back against the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill imposing new restrictions on abortion, including banning the procedure after 15 weeks. of pregnancy.
About two dozen abortion-rights supporters chanted “Hands off our bodies” at the bottom of the stairs leading to the House chamber as lawmakers debated the abortion measure. Both sides of the debate mentioned the protesters, whose voices could be heard by lawmakers as the emotional debate continued.
“It makes me absolutely sick to have to listen to what’s going on out there … with all that chanting,” Republican Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick said.
The House overruled Governor Andy Beshear’s veto in a 76-21 vote. That sent the measure to the Senate for a final vote to sweep the veto that could come later Wednesday. Republicans have supermajorities in both houses.
Strict abortion limits weren’t the only legislation on social issues passed by Republican lawmakers during the frantic veto session. They also used their lopsided majorities to finish overriding a Beshear veto on their effort to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports. Bypass votes were won by wide margins in both houses despite objections from opponents.
“This bill is discrimination in search of children,” said Democratic Representative Josie Raymond.
The measure would prevent transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity from sixth grade through college. Proponents say this would allow girls and women to compete with other “biological women”.
“The athlete wants a level playing field,” said Republican Senator Donald Douglas. “They don’t care about all these other social things.”
Republican-led states have increasingly enacted such bans for transgender girls or women, though culture war bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. Opponents of the Kentucky measure predicted the measure would also end up in court.
“The fight won’t stop there,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Equity Campaign.
Meanwhile, opponents are expected to challenge the abortion measure in court on constitutional grounds, but that effort may depend on deliberations already underway in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The proposed 15-week ban is inspired by a Mississippi law that the Supreme Court is considering in a case that could significantly limit abortion rights. Taking preventative action, proponents of the bill say Kentucky’s stricter ban would be in place if Mississippi’s law were upheld.
Kentucky law currently prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Opponents condemned the bill for failing to exclude pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
“These are violent crimes,” said Democratic Rep. Rachel Roberts. “This bill forces these women to be raped again.”
Another key part of the bill would establish regulations for the distribution of abortion pills. It would require women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the drug.
This section of the bill is part of a nationwide campaign by anti-abortion groups to limit doctors’ ability to prescribe abortion pills via telemedicine, and comes in response to the increased use of pills rather than surgery for terminate early pregnancies.
About half of all abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medical procedures.