FRANKFORT, Ky. — A new bill dealing with abortion has become law in Kentucky. Senate Bill 9 requires doctors to perform life-saving care on any infant that shows signs of life, including those who survive an abortion attempt.

What You Need To Know

  • After Gov. Beshear declined to veto Senate Bill 9, it has officially become law

  • SB9, dubbed the "Born-Alive Infant Protection Act," requires doctors to "do all they can" to save any infant showing life, including those who survive an abortion attempt

  • Beshear criticized the bill, saying it involves a situation "that has never happened and is already illegal under current Kentucky law"

  • Every Republican and only five Democrats voted in favor of the bill

Gov. Andy Beshear let the deadline to veto the bill come and go this week, so now it becomes law automatically.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) sponsored the bill, which is dubbed the “Born-Alive Infant Protection Act.”

“Whether they’re just newly born, either from a failed abortion attempt or from a premature birth or from any other circumstance, or they’re still in the womb, [children] deserve to be protected," Westerfield said.

The bill creates a new felony charge for doctors and other healthcare workers who don’t do all they can to keep an infant alive if they show signs of life, like a heartbeat or muscle movement.

“Kentucky didn’t have a law that explicitly required medical care — reasonable and appropriate medical care— to be provided," Westerfield said. "Not extreme measures, but reasonably-appropriate, medically-appropriate care provided to a child, given whatever circumstance that child presented when they’re born alive.”

Despite not vetoing the bill, Beshear was critical of it.  

“SB 9 involves a situation that, to our knowledge, has never happened in Kentucky and is already illegal under other Kentucky laws,” said Crystal Staley, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

The ACLU of Kentucky wrote to Governor Beshear urging him to veto Senate Bill 9, saying the bill “is a solution in search of a non-existent problem.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky echoed those criticisms of the bill during committee meetings this month.

“This bill’s intent is to shame patients and threaten health care providers,” said Dr. Brittany Meyers, an OB/GYN in Kentucky. “But what it will ultimately end up doing is changing the practice and handcuffing both general OBGYNs and neonatologists,”

Westerfield said the bill isn’t just about abortion, but it applies to any infant born under a life-threatening situation, which has occurred in the past.

“I don’t think it’s something that happens all day, every day all around the state, but there are cases of it happening and we’ve testified about it happening in open committee meetings multiple times,” Westerfield said. “So for them to claim that this doesn’t happen I think is disingenuous and apparently ignorant of the facts that have come out in committee.”

Three of the Senate’s eight Democrats voted in favor of the bill, along with two of the 25 Democrats in the House.

Every Republican who was present for the vote was in favor of it.

Beshear also vetoed House Bill 3 this week, which would require challenges to state law to be heard in the county they’re filed in.

Republicans want to prevent those cases from being heard exclusively in Franklin Circuit Court, but Beshear said it would be too costly for state officials to travel across Kentucky to defend state laws.

“House Bill 3 is the annual attempt to remove cases from Franklin Circuit Court because of legislative dissatisfaction with the duly elected judges and their rulings,” Beshear said in his veto message. “Changing well-settled legal procedure for this is bad policy, and sets a precedent for changing state law based on who is or is not in certain elected positions.”

Except for Senate Bill 9, Beshear vetoed every bill lawmakers sent him during the first part of the 2021 session. Those bills passed with veto-proof majorities and will likely come up for another vote in the legislature after lawmakers return for session on Feb. 2.