Though Kentucky has been a “pro-life state” for several decades, with polls in the late 1990s suggesting that 70 to 80 percent of Kentuckians favored restrictions on abortion,it was not until the last few years that pro-life legislation has flourished. Legislation, of course, is on the Truth side of the “Grace and Truth equation.” It establishes plumblines for the care of both the unborn and their mothers. Without doubt, the motivation of new laws can be compassion (Grace) for both mother and child, but the overarching impact of laws are Truth.
Even though Kentucky has been strongly pro-life since the 1990’s, various political leaders after the turn of the century kept all pro-life legislation from coming to the House Floor for debate and a vote. In 2004, the last significant piece of pro-life legislation was passed before a 10-year moratorium in the House would take place on all new pro-life bills.
The 2004 bill was Rep. Bob Damron’s (D-Nicholasville) House Bill 108 – “Fetal Homicide Bill” – authorizing the prosecution of someone who had killed a pregnant woman with two counts of homicide, because this bill stated that unless it was an abortion doctor, the killing of an unborn child was a homicide.
Nationally, the Republicans had established their “pro-life plank” in their Party platform, and the Democrats – as a national Party – have moved to a strong “pro-choice” position. That was problematic for many Kentuckians because the vast majority of voters were Democrats, . . . and they were pro-life Christians.
Starting in 2005, Speaker of the House Jody Richards (D-Bowling Green) followed the will of the Caucus and the national Party and allowed no pro-life bills onto the House Floor, whether they were initiated by the Senate or by the House.
When Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) took over as Speaker in 2009, he continued on the same course — no new pro-life bills allowed for debate or vote.
In 2015, a dark horse candidate won the Governor’s office, Matt Bevin. He had campaigned with a pro-life commitment, but his election had no impact on the life issue in the 2016 General Assembly because Speaker Stumbo still maintained power in the House . . . by a 53 to 47 majority.
Then, in the Fall of 2016, an amazing thing happened – pro-life legislators were elected from one end of the state to the other. Even the Speaker, Greg Stumbo, lost his seat.The election resulted in an entire“flip” of the House – from a 53-47 Democrat majority to a 36-64 Republican majority.
That evening, Sen. Ray Jones (D-Pikeville) had this to say on KET’s election cover-age, as the returns were indicating the remarkable shift: “It is obvious that the Democratic message in Kentucky is off. We have lost values voters. We have lost social conservatives that had historically voted Democratic. And we really have to look at the direction, not only of the Kentucky Democratic Party, but the National Democratic Party . . .”
With Speaker Stumbo out of the House and Republicans now in control, the floodgates were opened and pro-life bills were being offered in both Chambers and many were being considered, debated and passed.
In the first Session following the 2016 election of legislative members, the House and Senate passed two pro-life bills in the first five days (along with several other bills),working on a Saturday in an unprecedented moved to get them through both Chambers.
In the 2017 Session, three more pro-life bills passed. Then, in the 2019 Session, an additional four pro-life bills were passed and signed into law.
Now, with states across the nation passing strong pro-life legislation, there is serious speculation that the U.S. Supreme Court could choose to re-examine the entire 1973 Roe v Wade decision, perhaps allowing each state to decide its own policy. If that happens, House Bill 148, passed in 2019, becomes critical.