Kentucky Democrats Walked Out in Protest as Their Colleagues Passed a Sweeping Abortion Ban

The bill is now on the desk of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat.

Kentucky Democrats Walked Out in Protest as Their Colleagues Passed a Sweeping Abortion Ban
Photo:Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)

Seven Democratic lawmakers at the Kentucky State Senate walked out of the chamber on Tuesday afternoon in protest of the passage of a sweeping bill that would ban abortion. The bill passed the upper chamber 29-0, with Democrats refusing to vote (and lacking the votes to stop it).

The symbolic protest didn’t, of course, derail the legislation. By 9:30 p.m. the state House reconciled the legislative changes and passed Kentucky H.B. 3 74-19. The legislation now awaits Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) signature—he could stop it, at least temporarily, with a veto.

Dr. Sen. Karen Berg, a Democrat representing neighborhoods outside Louisville, walked out in protest of the bill. “It was a protest just to show the world that we’re not participating in this,” Berg told Jezebel by phone.

The legislation bans abortion after 15 weeks gestation, similar to the Mississippi state law now under consideration at the Supreme Court. But the bill doesn’t stop at just a ban: In a death-by-thousand-cuts approach, the GOP-led legislation attempts to bury clinics in paperwork regarding medication abortion and fetal remains. Abortion clinics must keep track of “total number and dates of each previous pregnancy, live birth and abortion of the pregnant patient,” the gestational age and post-fertilization age of the fetus, any reason given for the procedure, the address of the doctor performing the procedure as well as the abortion facility address—all to be reported for a public registry.

“[Republicans] think that they’re doing the right thing by controlling women’s choice. They just don’t seem to understand that they already have a choice. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one,” Berg told Jezebel. “But for those women who feel for whatever reason this is the best decision for them, this is the decision they need to make for their own lives and their own bodies…where is the government’s position in stopping them?”

The state also will require doctors to tell their patients that an abortion can be reversed via a pill—a claim that is not at all true. “There are no peer-reviewed studies on the subject whatsoever. They don’t even exist,” Berg told Jezebel. “The accepted medical position on this is you have got to know what you’re doing before you start, and if you’re not comfortable, don’t do it. Nobody is going to force you to do this. You have to know in your heart of hearts and as deep as you can that this is what is best for you and your situation.”

The bill also bans sending abortion bills by mail, which the FDA permanently approved in December. And in late February, medication abortion (the process that uses abortion pills to end a pregnancy) was found to the be most popular abortion option in research published by The Guttmacher Institute.

The bill also requires publishing the names and addresses of doctors who perform abortions, which is a direct move from the Operation Save America playbook. The violent anti-abortion group is known to plaster neighborhoods with flyers notifying residents that “an abortionist” was living in their midst.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. They are intentionally setting them up for violence. There’s no question in my mind. It’s on purpose,” Berg told Jezebel. “It’s on purpose.”

Beshear has previously said he’d “veto any extremist bill,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, but veto will almost certainly not stop Kentucky Republicans. It only takes a majority in each chamber to override him.

This post has been updated throughout with Jezebel’s interview with Berg

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