Lawmakers decry ‘misinformation’ on Kentucky abortion amendment vote

Claims of a Nov. 8 abortion amendment are angering anti-abortion lawmakers in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Kentucky — With accusations on both sides, more than two dozen members of the “life opponent” of the Kentucky General Assembly held a news conference Thursday to “dispel” “misinformation” about a Nov. 8 measure the state constitution has no right to abortion.

MP Nancy Tate, R-Brandenburg and leader of the group, accused abortion rights advocates opposing the change of a “massive misinformation campaign” by suggesting it would ban abortion.

“This amendment makes it clear that abortion is not a right under the Kentucky Constitution,” Tate said. “This will keep state judges on their trail of interpreting the law and not inventing new laws and new rights that the Constitution does not speak of.”

But Gov. Andy Beshear said the measure, known as Amendment 2, would have a broader impact by protecting the current state “trigger law,” which bans all abortions in Kentucky except for medical emergencies, with no exceptions for rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

“Amendment 2,” he said, “would protect and maintain the country’s most extreme law when it comes to abortion services.”

“What this extreme law means is that victims of rape or incest have no choice,” Beshear said. “In fact, her rapist has more rights than she does over what happens to their bodies.”

And House Democratic Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, accused speakers at the press conference — all Republicans — of lying about the change, including Tate’s claim that some outside of Kentucky wanted abortion “up to.” 28 days after birth”.

“Today’s press conference accusing opponents of the amendment of falsehoods is both untrue and a deliberate attempt to hide their own wildly inaccurate statements,” Jenkins said in a statement. “They know there is no voluntary abortion until birth — and according to Rep. Tate up to 28 days after birth — but they lie about it anyway.”

Tate did not explain her claim, but Reuters recently reported that a false claim had been circulated on social media that New York had passed a law allowing abortions up to 28 days after birth.

“Contrary to claims online, as of September 2022, New York state did not pass an abortion law legalizing ‘abortion’ 28 days after the birth of a child, and Reuters found no evidence that such a law exists,” it said.

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Tate also said at Thursday’s news conference that if voters reject the change, it would open the floodgates for abortion providers in Kentucky.

“A no would make Kentucky an abortion mecca for this region,” Tate said.

Before the abortion ban in June, Kentucky had two abortion providers.

Tate and other lawmakers who spoke said it should be up to the legislature, not the judge, to allow abortion or to determine whether laws should make exceptions for certain circumstances.

But under current laws enacted by the GOP-dominated General Assembly, including the “Trigger Act,” abortion is illegal in Kentucky, with exceptions only for medical emergencies and not for rape, incest, or major fetal abnormalities. These laws came into effect after the US Supreme Court overturned federal abortion laws on June 24.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton and a staunch anti-abortion lawmaker, said he personally would not vote to change that.

“I don’t support exceptions,” he said. “God created each one of us in his own image…this is a matter of religion and belief to me.”

Beshear noted at his press conference that The Courier Journal recently reported that the two youngest patients to have an abortion while legal in the past two years were both 9 years old.

“The only way a 9-year-old can get pregnant in Kentucky is through first-degree rape — a violent crime,” Beshear said.

The current Kentucky law making abortion illegal went into effect after the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade had struck down the landmark 1973 case that made abortion a federal law and returned the power to states to regulate abortion.

Kentucky has become the latest battleground over whether state constitutions provide abortion rights.

Kansas voters firmly rejected a similar amendment in August, in the first vote of its kind since the Roe v. Calf.

Meanwhile, at the press conference, lawmakers defended an ad recently released by Yes for Life, the coalition of anti-abortion groups, in support of the change.

The TV advert immediately came under fire for misinformation about the change. It claims:

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“Radical activists out of state want to spend THEIR tax dollars on late abortions, even up to the moment of birth,” a spokeswoman says in the 30-second ad, which shows images of pro-choice protesters followed by an infant’s feet and a little kid blowing out birthday candles.

“This November, you can stop them by voting yes to Amendment No. 2, which stops taxpayer-funded late-term abortions,” she adds.

It drew complaints from a member of Protect Kentucky Access, who opposes the change.

“It’s medical misinformation in the worst possible way,” Tamarra Wieder, director of the Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates in Kentucky, said last week. “Kentuckians, they’re sick of being lied to, they’re sick of their health care being restricted.”

But Tate and Westerfield defended the ad, insisting that some extrastate groups that have donated to opponents of the change are actually pushing for abortions to term — despite a 2017 Kentucky law banning abortions after 20 weeks, mid-pregnancy .

“That’s exactly what they want,” Westerfield said. “This is the kind of America they want.”

And Addia Wuchner, chair of the Yes for Life Alliance, released a statement on Thursday denying opponents’ claims.

“Pro-abortion activists are trying to scare Kentucky residents with their lies about Amendment No. 2,” it said. “The amendment is not an abortion ban, and current Kentucky law protects maternal health and life.”

When asked why the measure bans public funding for abortions when federal and Kentucky laws already prohibit it, Tate said lawmakers want to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

Planned Parenthood’s Wieder said Monday on Kentucky Tonight, a KET public affairs show, that such claims about late abortions and public funding are false.

“It’s not based on any medical or financial reality of this state,” Wieder said.

When asked what the polls showed about the outcome of the abortion ballot question, Tate said she wasn’t privy to any of the poll information, but said it’s important that people vote for it.

“The sense of urgency is November 8,” she said.

Kentucky’s one-sentence amendment states:

“For the protection of human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed as securing or protecting a right to abortion or requiring the financing of any abortion.”

Contact reporter Deborah Yetter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @d_yetter.

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