FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 9 on Friday, saying that Kentucky law already fully protects children from being denied life-saving medical care and treatment when they are born.
That decision brought sweeping response from Todd Gray, the executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, who called it “absolutely unimaginable."
“I cannot conceive the type of thinking that allows an elected official, in this case Governor Beshear, to simultaneously preserve life by slowing the spread of COVID-19 and disregard the life of the unborn,” Gray said.
Gray wasn’t alone in being upset over the veto of the “Born Alive Act.” House Speaker David Osborne said he was “outraged and saddened over the decision to veto a bill aimed at protecting human life” and Attorney General Daniel Cameron called it "reprehensible."
“Make no mistake, the governor had a choice and he used it to defend the indefensible,” Osborne said. “The Born Alive Act simply requires physicians and other health caregivers to provide life-saving medical care to infants who survive an abortion. This is about protecting a human life outside of the womb.”
When asked about the veto at his daily press conference Friday afternoon, Beshear said he “was just not doing divisive issues right now.”
He said his full focus was on defeating the coronavirus. “We’ve got to have 100 percent of our effort aimed toward it and we got to have unity in this commonwealth.”
Beshear said making the bill law would result in lawsuits and “pulling people one way or the other, and creating discord, in the middle of a time when we’ve got to be together. I just didn’t think it was the right direction for us to go.”
Bills similar to Senate Bill 9 have been struck down as unconstitutional in other states throughout the country when challenged, Beshear wrote in his veto.
The bill also included a provision that would have allowed the attorney general to enforce a law requiring abortion clinics to have a written agreement with a hospital so that patients may be transferred to the hospital if an emergency occurs. It gives the attorney general the ability to deem what is an essential medical service. Abortion had been deemed an essential service during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“The governor, who claims to have everyday family values, vetoed a bill that would require babies born after failed abortions to receive live-saving medical care,” Cameron said.
He called the veto an “affront to the people of Kentucky,” whose elected representatives voted in a bipartisan manner for the bill.
“It’s also disheartening that he would issue a veto against a bill that gives my office the authority to hold abortion clinics accountable to the law,” he said. “The people of Kentucky elected me to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth, and I had hoped that Governor Beshear would welcome having me as a partner with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in enforcing our health and safety laws, rather than rebuking the people’s wishes.”
Cameron said the governor wanted to avoid creating unnecessary divisiveness but the veto of a bill that received support from both sides of the aisle and protects the most vulnerable was an incredibly divisive action for him to take.
Gray said the timing of the veto decision was curious, too.
“The fact that he waited until the end of the day on Friday to veto shows the obvious desire to draw as little public awareness as possible,” he said.
Kent Ostrander, the executive director of the Family Foundation, agreed about the timing of the veto.
“It is ironic because the announcement apparently came out while he was doing his 5 p.m. ‘Team Kentucky’ program about compassion for the vulnerable,” Ostrander said. “He simply doesn’t see; he just has his own agenda.”
Ostrander said the decision causes him to recommit his efforts.
The decision will be a divisive one for Kentucky Baptists, who were hoping the governor would sign the bill into law or do nothing which would make it law. Thousands sent emails and messages to the governor’s office asking him to allow the bill into law.
The measure was overwhelming approved in both the Kentucky House and Senate.
“It is a miracle for an infant to survive an abortion and to not render assistance is unthinkable,” Osborne said. “State and federal laws are insufficient in addressing this and, unfortunately, we learned all too well the cruelty that these infants endure when Virginia Governor Ralph Northam publicly defended, and New York political activists celebrated, the heinous practice.
“This is not the end of this issue. The House Majority Caucus has been called the most pro-life in the history of our Commonwealth, and we will continue to fight for human life.”
Planned Parenthood praised Beshear for the veto in a statement.
“Not only is this bill unnecessary, it is a blatant display of anti-abortion politics by extremists in the Kentucky General Assembly,” said Tamarra Weider, the Kentucky director Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky. “A global pandemic is not the time to play political games with people’s lives.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky also stood behind Beshear’s decision to veto the bill, saying in a statement it was “a politically motivated bill that was passed in the final hours of the legislative session.”