Stivers, Hoover, Westerfield, Fischer file amicus brief in defense of abortion law

01/19/2017 04:15 PM

Four Republicans lawmakers have filed a brief in defense of an anti-abortion bill passed during the first week of the General Assembly, because at least one of the men believe the Attorney General is “giving a pretty weak effort” at defending the new law from a legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

House Bill 2, which was signed into law last week, requires that a woman receive an ultrasound before an abortion.

The law also says the physician giving the ultrasound must simultaneously provide an explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting which shall include: the presence and location of the unborn child in the uterus, and the number of the unborn children depicted, and if the ultrasound indicates that fetal demise has occurred inform the woman of that fact.

The ACLU brought a case against the new law on behalf of Kentucky’s lone abortion provider the day it was signed into law, saying the bill violated the Constitution.

On Tuesday, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, along with House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Fischer, filed amicus curiae brief in support of defendants of the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act.

Stivers and Hoover both attended pre-inaugural events in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, and were expected to attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Friday.

Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, spoke to Pure Politics by phone on Thursday and said the reason for the defense of the law from the men was due to lack of faith in Attorney General Andy Beshear.

“In the defense of (the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act) the best he can do is ask for it to be dismissed, because he’s not mentioned in the bill” Westerfield said. “That’s a weak defense of the law.”

“The Senate President, the Speaker, Chair Fischer and I, all believed a law passed by an overwhelming number of legislators of both parties deserves a little more effort than that.”

Beshear spoke to Pure Politics after a press conference in Frankfort on Thursday and defended his actions saying his office is “vigorous” in their defense of the law.

“While I saw that motion, and if they want to have a separate say that’s just fine, I’ve received separate acknowledgment from Senate President Stivers and Speaker Hoover of my commitment towards defending those parties — they’ve separately expressed thank-you for your commitment in defending that law or the parties to that law,” Beshear said.

Before the legislation cleared the House of Representatives during the first week of the session, Representative McKenzie Cantrell pointed to a North Carolina lawsuit from 2014 that ended up costing North Carolina tax payers.

Legislation in the state that required a woman to receive an ultra sound before an abortion was found to violate a doctor’s First Amendment rights — the judge ruling in the plaintiffs favor made the state pay the legal fees.

The ACLU also pointed to the suit when challenging the legality of the case last week. Westerfield said the lawmakers addressed the constitutional questions in their brief to the court.

“We don’t think this is forcing (doctors) to say abortion is bad, that, I think, probably would be a First Amendment violation,” he said. “That’s not what this bill is asking. This bill is making the information related to the procedure fully available to the mother to see it.”

Stivers, Hoover, Westerfield and Fischer’s brief does not add them to the case, but rather allows them to be “friends” or advisors to the court in defense of the law.

A call to the ACLU of Kentucky about the brief was not immediately returned on Thursday.

Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics available exclusively on Spectrum News. Pure Politics is the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like his coverage of the backlog of DNA rape kits waiting to be tested in Kentucky. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Pure Politics airs weeknight at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Nick on Twitter @NStorm_Politics. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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