Beshear: Fetal Heartbeat Bill Doesn't Pass Constitutional Muster

Jan 31, 2019

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear says Senate Bill 9, a proposal outlawing most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, is unconstitutional. 

In this Monday, July 17, 2017 file photo, escort volunteers line up outside the EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, Ky.
Credit AP Photo/Dylan Lovan, File

In a letter to House and Senate leaders in the GOP-dominated legislature, the Democratic candidate for governor argues the bill would not withstand a virtually assured legal challenge. In the message, Beshear says the U.S. Supreme Court has found – "on eight separate occasions" – that neither Congress nor a state can ban abortion before viability.

Under SB9, physicians would face felony charges for performing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is heard, except in cases of a life-threatening emergency to the mother.

Lawmakers who back the bill maintain it’s about taking a stand for life, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says they’re in the majority.

"We've got more than enough votes in our caucus to pass it," the Georgetown Republican told the press in early January. "I would suspect there will be a handful of Democrats who vote for it." 

SB9 was part of a slate of anti-abortion measures unveiled during the first week of the 2019 General Assembly. If enacted, they would situate the commonwealth at the forefront of states seeking to curtail abortions.

Should lawmakers put the heartbeat bill on the books, Beshear is warning the state could wind up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees if the law is overturned in the courts.  

Republicans have signaled their intent to take up the bill when they return to Frankfort in early February.