Kentucky General Assembly members have once again shown their extreme hostility to reproductive choice in the just-completed legislative session, overriding the governor’s veto of the anti-abortion bill HB 3.
In doing so, they have made Kentucky the only state that would essentially ban all abortion services. This bill is so broad, with so many restrictions that abortion providers say they could not continue to provide their services in the state without violating it.
This extensive bill does the following:
It bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and places new restrictions on abortions in which a patient takes medication to terminate a pregnancy.
It bans receipt of abortion medications by mail, even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits this.
It creates a new bureaucracy to certify and register anyone who manufactures, ships or dispenses the medication.
It requires abortion providers to collect and report detailed information from patients.
It adds new restrictions for girls under 18 seeking abortions, including asking permission from a judge when a parent is not available in circumstances that include sexual abuse, domestic violence or neglect.
It requires fetal remains to be cremated or buried by a licensed mortuary but is unclear about disposing tissue from medication abortions and miscarriages.
Finally, it provides no exception for women who become pregnant due to rape or incest.
A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of this onerous bill. In 2019, Kentucky also passed a six-week abortion ban, which has also been suspended by a federal judge pending legal challenges.
While the Jewish position on abortion has always been complex, it respects the needs of women. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which represents 125 local Jewish community relations councils and 16 national Jewish agencies, including the four denominations of Judaism, has issued the following guidance for the Jewish position on reproductive choice:
Human life is to be valued and protected; A woman has a legal right to make her own decisions about accessing the full range of reproductive health care….
The decision to end a pregnancy, while difficult, is a personal one best left to the woman in consultation with her physician. The JCRC and JCPA trust women to make the best choice. Governors, legislatures, courts and state agencies ought to do the same.
Instead, many states are electing to tell women when, how and even if they may access reproductive health services in a disturbing trend that robs women of their rights. This year, the Supreme Court will decide whether Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, will be overturned or curtailed.
This is why Federal legislation is needed now more than ever to guarantee the right to choose an abortion. Without that guarantee, the right will disappear in many states. Women’s access to reproductive services will depend on where they live, their ability to travel to states where services are still available, their ability to pay, even their citizenship or immigration status.
JCRC and JCPA oppose any legislative effort to deny a woman’s constitutionally protected right to access reproductive health services.
The Louisville JCRC strongly condemns the passage of HB3. Additionally, we also urge Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would permit healthcare providers to deliver abortion services without regard to these draconian laws. Now is the time to act.
(Beth Salamon chairs the Jewish Community Relations Council.)