FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill that would require doctors and other health workers to provide life-sustaining care for an infant born alive after a failed abortion attempt was approved by the Kentucky Senate on Monday.
The measure sailed through the Senate on a 32-0 vote and heads to the House next. It's the latest in a series of abortion-related bills to surface in the Republican-dominated legislature in recent years.
The bill would require health-care workers to give “medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment” to protect the lives of newborns, including any infant born after a failed abortion.
“We want to make sure that life is protected not only in the womb but certainly after the baby's out of the womb," Sen. Whitney Westerfield, the bill's lead sponsor, said during a brief discussion of the legislation Monday.
Westerfield said last week he wasn't aware of any instances in which an infant was born alive in Kentucky from a failed abortion. He added that the bill is needed to “prevent it ever happening."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said recently that the legislation is based on “false claims" and has “nothing to do with how abortion care actually works."
“Bills like these perpetuate myths and lies about abortion care, patients who receive this care and the doctors who care for them," the group said in a letter to members of a Senate panel that advanced the measure last week.
Violating the bill would be a felony punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison. It would apply to doctors and other health workers found in violation of the care requirements.
Critics of such measures say that medical ethics would require any health professional to take appropriate steps to save the life of any infant in such circumstances.
Similar legislation is being considered in West Virginia, where an opposing lawmaker said that it creates a new offense out of something that's already illegal.
The Kentucky measure is among the latest round of abortion-related bills introduced in this year's legislative session. One proposal would amend the state Constitution to specify it includes no protection for abortion rights. Another would ban public money for any agency that performs or counsels patients about abortion.
Kentucky law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Kentucky lawmakers have moved aggressively to put restrictions and conditions on abortion since Republicans assumed total control of the legislature in the 2017 session. Some of those laws are being challenged in courts, including one that would ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.