'Walls Are Closing In' on Safe Abortions—Kentucky Latest To Pass New Bill

Abortion rights advocates have warned that the "walls are closing in" on safe abortions after Kentucky became the latest state to pass a bill restricting access to the procedure.

The measure sparked protests in the Senate gallery on Tuesday, with demonstrators chanting "abortion is health care" and unfurling banners that said "stop the bans" before being cleared during a debate.

House Bill 3 won final passage in the House hours later. The Senate earlier on Tuesday had amended a sweeping bill to include a 15-week ban on abortions—in a preemptive step that is tied to an anticipated decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion rights.

The measure also bans telehealth for medication abortions, requiring patients to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving abortion pills.

Opponents have warned that the bill's requirements, including that fetal remains be cremated or interred, were so onerous that no abortion clinic in Kentucky would be able to comply and would essentially end access to the procedure in the state.

"The walls are closing in on safe and legal abortion care in the commonwealth and across this country," Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said in a statement.

"This threat to legal abortion needs to be widely known: our health care, our rights, and our freedom are on the line."

Wieder said the legislation "is designed to punish patients and providers by criminalizing health care and inserting politics into medicine. It will force people to travel out of state for care, and those without the means to travel will be forced to remain pregnant against their will.

"This is not what the majority of Kentuckians want. This bill is anti-democratic, unconstitutional, and downright dangerous. It must not become law."

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted: "This fight isn't over. Governor Beshear must veto this cruel attack on essential health care."

But the measure is likely to be enacted even if Kentucky's Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear vetoes it as the Senate Republicans' supermajority could override a veto, according to Reuters.

Some 41 states have introduced bills to restrict abortion this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

The Oklahoma House recently voted to ban all abortions unless it is necessary for saving the pregnant woman's life. If signed into law, it would surpass Texas' six-week abortion ban to become the most restrictive in the nation.

GOP-led states are passing legislation rolling back abortion access ahead of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. The high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, signaled it could uphold Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban during oral arguments in that case in December.

The court's decision, expected in the spring, could overturn its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which established the right to an abortion before fetal viability.

If the court guts or overturns Roe, it would pave the way for abortion to be outlawed or severely restricted in about half of the country, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Activists dance in a flash mob
Activists dance in a flash mob put on by the group "Act for Abortion” in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images