FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A bill meant to preserve the lives of newborns, including any infant born after a failed abortion, cleared a final hurdle when Kentucky's governor allowed it to become law without his signature.
The measure's lead Republican sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, said Friday he was grateful that Gov. Andy Beshear didn’t veto it. But he was disappointed the Democratic governor chose not to sign it.
The legislation sailed through the GOP-dominated legislature in the opening days of this year's session. Republican lawmakers wield veto-proof supermajorities in the House and Senate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said Friday it was “incredibly disappointed” that the governor didn't stand in the way of the measure becoming law this week.
“It is an inflammatory law that was motivated purely by politics and has no basis in the real-life practice of medicine,” ACLU of Kentucky spokesman Samuel Crankshaw said.
Critics of such measures say that medical ethics would require any health professional to take appropriate steps to save the life of any infant in such circumstances.
Beshear already has vetoed several bills that were put on a fast track by GOP lawmakers this month but allowed the infant-related measure to quietly become law. The legislature can take up veto overrides when it reconvenes in early February.
The governor's spokeswoman, Crystal Staley, said Friday that the infant-related measure “involves a situation that, to our knowledge, has never happened in Kentucky and is already illegal under other Kentucky laws.”
Under the bill, a doctor performing an abortion must “take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant.” It requires a “born-alive infant” be given nourishment along with medical care, treatment and surgical care deemed medically appropriate.
Westerfield said the measure solidifies Kentucky’s position as a “leading pro-life state.”
“It means that we’re going to protect children that are born alive, under any circumstance, not just from a failed abortion attempt,” he said.
Crankshaw said the measure “serves only to shame and ostracize patients.”
Beshear this week vetoed another measure that would empower the state’s anti-abortion attorney general to regulate abortion clinics. That bill would give Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron the power to seek civil and criminal penalties for any violation of Kentucky’s abortion laws.
In recent years, Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to impose restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature.