Bill raising abortion to homicide draws Republican pushback

Feb 15, 2023, 11:33 AM | Updated: 11:37 am
FILE - Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the audience gathered during the Fancy Fa...

FILE - Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron addresses the audience gathered during the Fancy Farm Picnic at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Fancy Farm, Ky., Aug. 6, 2022. Newly filed legislation allowing illegal abortions to be prosecuted as homicides drew a quick pushback Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, from Cameron, who warned it would wrongly subject Kentucky women to charges for terminating pregnancies. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Newly filed legislation allowing illegal abortions to be prosecuted as homicides drew a quick pushback Wednesday from the state’s anti-abortion attorney general, who warned it would wrongly subject Kentucky women to charges for terminating pregnancies.

Republican state Rep. Emily Callaway raised the stakes in the state’s bitter abortion debates when she introduced the measure Tuesday in a state where most abortions are currently banned.

The freshman lawmaker’s proposal would subject illegal abortions to the “same legal principles as would apply to the homicide of a person who had been born alive.” The bill would expand the definition of a human being to include an “unborn child.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican who is running for governor, responded Wednesday that the bill “strikes the wrong balance” and urged the GOP-led legislature to reject it.

“If adopted by the General Assembly, this bill would allow pregnant mothers who have an abortion to be criminally charged and prosecuted with homicide,” Cameron said in a statement from his office that also touted his anti-abortion credentials.

So far, the highly charged abortion issue has mostly been on the back burner in this year’s legislative session in the Bluegrass State. Lawmakers are awaiting a ruling by Kentucky’s Supreme Court in a case revolving around the constitutionality of the state’s near-total abortion ban.

The state’s trigger law outlawing nearly all abortions is being challenged. It took effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Kentucky law carved out narrow exceptions to save a pregnant woman’s life or prevent disabling injury.

Kentucky’s Republican House speaker, David Osborne, said Wednesday that he anticipates other abortion-related legislation being introduced in the coming days, including proposals that would provide further exceptions when abortion would be legal.

Osborne gave a chilly response to Callaway’s proposal to prosecute abortions as homicides. He said Kentucky lawmakers have “never passed a ‘pro-life’ measure that did not take into consideration the necessity for any exceptions, nor has this House majority caucus ever contemplated doing so.”

Republicans have supermajorities in both the Kentucky House and Senate.

The state’s trigger law targets doctors for prosecution for providing abortions in violation of state law, but pregnant women who receive abortions are not subject to prosecution. But the new bill introduced by Callaway did not appear to make exceptions for pregnant people.

Her bill would exempt abortions necessary to prevent a pregnant woman’s death. It includes other exceptions for a “spontaneous miscarriage;” or for abortions provided only after “all reasonable alternatives to save the life of the unborn child are unavailable or were attempted unsuccessfully.”

The measure would give the attorney general’s office concurrent jurisdiction along with local prosecutors in prosecuting illegal abortions as homicides.

Cameron, in the midst of this year’s hotly contested GOP primary campaign for governor, immediately distanced himself from the proposal.

“While I strongly support prohibiting abortions in Kentucky, I just as strongly support helping pregnant women,” Cameron said. “Pregnant mothers deserve our help, support and life-affirming options, not to face criminal charges.”

Cameron’s office has defended the trigger law and a separate six-week state abortion ban in legal challenges that reached the state’s highest court.

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Bill raising abortion to homicide draws Republican pushback