‘Born Alive’ bill first of session to clear Senate

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, speaks on Senate Bill 9 in the Kentucky Senate on Thursday. The measure, known as the Born Alive Bill, requires medical personnel to provide life-sustaining care to all babies born alive. The bill was one of several passed by the Senate on the third day of the 2021 General Assembly Session. Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murry, is seen at left.

FRANKFORT – (KT) The first bill to clear the Kentucky Senate during the 2021 General Assembly is a pro-life measure known as the “Born Alive” bill.

The measure, known as Senate Bill 9, would prohibit a person from denying or depriving a born-alive infant of medically appropriate and reasonable medical care, medical treatment, or surgical care.

Its sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, said this would cover a child born alive under any circumstance.  

“Whether it’s an abortion that didn’t work, or a premature birth, or whatever the circumstance might be,” he said. “If a child is born alive, it must be given medical care consistent with whatever it’s needs are.  This doesn’t change the standard of care, it doesn’t establish what that care must be, because medical professionals need to make that decision where they are at that moment, under the circumstances.”

When asked if there was any instance when a child has not received appropriate medical care in Kentucky, Westerfield responded, “Yes.  I don’t have any data on how many times this has happened, but I am aware of two, at least.”

He added, “Again, I don’t know how many, but one is too many, and one is enough to justify the legislation.”

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville and a University of Louisville physician, spoke in opposition, saying it puts a burden on physicians.  “The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology is strongly against this bill, so I cannot in good faith vote for it, even though I believe the intentions are honorable, but the understanding is missing.”

This is the third time Westerfield has sponsored a Born Alive bill.  In 2019 it cleared the Senate and a House committee, but never had a House floor vote.  In 2020, it easily won passage in both chambers, but was vetoed by the governor, and since lawmakers had adjourned, were unable to take a vote to override the veto.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, 32-4, and now heads to the House.

In other action, the Senate approved SB 3, which would remove the Agricultural Development Board and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation from the Office of the Governor, and move it to the Department of Agriculture, by a 29-8 vote.     

They also sent on to the House SB 2 which, among other things, speeds up the process of holding public hearings on administrative regulations enacted by executive branch agencies, requires documentation in support of the proposed regulations, for action by a legislative committee, and limits them to 30 days, if imposing restrictions on gatherings or imposing mandatory quarantine of isolation requirements.  That bill cleared the chamber, 31-7.

In addition, SB 1 was adopted, 27-9 with one member abstaining, which would limit a governor’s power to issue emergency executive orders to 30 days, without approval by the General Assembly.  That means a special session would have to be called, if lawmakers are not already in session.

(By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

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