Kentucky Republicans fast-track new abortion restrictions

Kentucky Republicans fast-track new abortion restrictions
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Kentucky Republicans are using their first days of the new legislative session to fast-track three measures that would create new barriers to abortion access across the state.

A state Senate committee is scheduled to hear testimony Wednesday on a measure that would ban abortions from taking place more than 20 weeks after conception. Similar bans in other states have been upheld by state and federal courts.

Another measure would block public funding of organizations that perform abortions such as Planned Parenthood. Federal law already blocks taxpayer funding of abortions, but groups like Planned Parenthood receive millions of dollars from state and federal agencies to provide healthcare for low-income residents.

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A third measure would require anyone seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound before the procedure takes place. That measure builds on an informed consent law passed last year, and signed by Gov. Matt Bevin (R), that requires women seeking an abortion to be told about the fetus.

All three measures are likely to pass the state Senate, which has been controlled by Republicans for more than a decade, and the state House, which Republicans captured in the 2016 elections. Newly installed state House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R) has said there is “overwhelming support” for the 20-week abortion ban in his chamber.

State Senate President Robert Stivers (R) told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the 20-week abortion ban is likely to get a vote on the Senate floor before the week is out.

Kentucky is the latest state to consider new restrictions on abortions after Republicans came into power in recent elections. Republicans won a supermajority of 64 seats in the 100-member House in November, giving the party total control of state government for the first time in nearly a century.

Nineteen states passed more than 60 new restrictions on abortion in 2016, according to a study by the Center for Reproductive Rights, which backs abortion rights.

This year, Missouri and Iowa legislators are also likely to try to advance new restrictions on abortions. Republicans captured the governorship in Missouri, after years in which outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed new restrictions. In Iowa, Republicans won control of the state Senate, their last barrier to total control.