LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Karen Roper was so shocked by the overturn of Roe v. Wade that she joined the fight for abortion rights in Kentucky, where the future of access to abortions may depend on a constitutional issue that will be on the ballot this fall.
Roper is a part of a volunteer network canvassing communities in opposition to the ballot initiative on November 8th. Voters in Kentucky will be asked to determine whether to modify the state constitution to explicitly indicate that the right to an abortion is not protected. Nothing in this Constitution shall be understood to provide or protect a right to abortion or to compel the funding of abortion, in order to protect human life.
Roper, a 55-year-old mother of two girls, spent a number of weekends in October knocking on doors in a community in central Kentucky. She asserted that “this issue actually transcends a candidate and it transcends a political party.” I believed that this mattered more than any candidate that I could have had an interest in. There is a lot of fervor on both sides.
Abortion opponents see the bill as a chance to abolish Kentucky’s constitutional safeguards for the procedure, potentially putting an end to the protracted legal battle. The pro-amendment Yes for Life Alliance’s Addia Wuchner declared, “This is a crucial time in Kentucky’s history.” Abortions are currently mostly on hold in Kentucky as legal disputes rage over the legality of a statute that effectively outlaws all abortions.
2019 legislatively approved prohibition went into effect after Roe was overruled. With contributions flowing in, politicians speaking out, and supporters on both sides accusing the opposition of misleading voters, the ballot issue has now heightened the debate.
In the meantime, happenings this summer in Kansas, a conservative state, where voters rejected a ballot measure that would have modified that state’s constitution to allow politicians to impose stricter limits or outlaw abortions have given abortion rights proponents hope.
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According to Rachel Sweet of the abortion-rights coalition Protect Kentucky Access, “in a very real sense, what is at stake is any future road to restoring access to legal abortion in the commonwealth.” Since the Republican-controlled legislature set up space last year for the abortion proposal this election season, a constitutional dispute has been simmering in Kentucky.
The odds are against us. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortions in Kentucky have been put on hold, with a small exception, while the state’s top court considers the legislation that banned the operation.
Helene Senn, a University of Louisville student who participated in the door-knocking campaign in favor of the amendment, stated that proponents of abortion can’t let this chance “slip through our hands.” She was further motivated by the Roe judgment.
“I was aware that there was a bigger chance to have such a significant impact on our state, said 20-year-old Senn. The ban is being used by proponents of abortion rights to increase opposition to the amendment. Except for abortions performed to save the life of a pregnant woman or avoid permanent disability, this law demanded the immediate termination of practically all abortions once Roe was reversed.
Victims of rape or incest are not exempt from this rule. Even those who have very conflicted sentiments about abortion believe that there should be exceptions, according to Sweet. “For a lot of people, it is a surprising thing to hear,” she said. Abortion opponents claim that if the amendment is approved, abortion policy will be decided by the legislature, not the courts, which is where they believe it should originate from.
Leading opponent of abortion and Republican state representative Nancy Tate said, “Practically speaking, this… will keep state judges in their lane of interpreting the law and not establishing new laws and new rights that the constitution does not speak about.”
The two remaining abortion clinics in Kentucky, both of which are located in Louisville, the capital and largest city of the state, are challenging the trigger law. According to the lawsuit, it was unconstitutional for women to be “forced to remain pregnant against their will.”
The Kentucky Supreme Court has maintained the restriction while it considers the lawsuit and is prepared to hear arguments following the election. Another state legislation that forbids abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy is also challenged in the lawsuit. The amendment vote will have a significant impact on the court case, according to Democratic Governor Andy Beshear, who has called the trigger law harsh.
If this constitutional change is approved, there is little doubt that the trigger law will remain in force “Beshear remarked. “The Kentucky Supreme Court will review the trigger statute and decide whether it is constitutional if it fails. Other campaigns in a state where the GOP took complete control of the legislature in 2016 have been overshadowed by the abortion amendment.
Supporters of abortion rights saw the proposal as a chance to counteract the anti-abortion trend that resulted in a number of legislative limits and conditions on abortion, many of which sparked legal challenges. They contend that the need for constitutional protections stems from the legislature’s staunch opposition to abortion. Abortion opponents assert that recent anti-abortion legislation represents the wishes of Kentuckians.
Kentuckians are pro-life. They respect the unborn child’s life, “added Wuchner, a former politician and the organization’s executive director. The legislature can address abortion legislation “any time it is in session,” according to Tate. That might involve legislation to broaden the exclusions to the abortion ban, where Republican dissent is sure to show.
At a recent gathering of lawmakers opposed to abortion, Republican state senator Whitney Westerfield stated, “I don’t support exceptions.” Each of us was created in God’s likeness. He was familiar with us before he ever created us. For me, this is a matter of faith and religion.