Two abortion bills filed by Owensboro-area legislators were approved by lawmakers and sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Now, both are facing a legal challenge from the ACLU of Kentucky.

House Bill 5, which was filed by Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, a Belton Republican, received final passage in the Senate Wednesday after being passed in the House. The bill was sent to Bevin on Thursday.

Also, Senate Bill 9, which was sponsored by Sen. Matt Castlen, an Owensboro Republican, was approved Thursday night and signed early Friday morning.

"The governor signed it into law just a little after midnight," Castlen said Friday.

Castlen's bill had an emergency clause, meaning it became law the moment it was signed by the governor. But Friday night, a federal judge issued a temporary order prohibiting the law from taking effect, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

With Bevin expected to sign House Bill 5, it will make it a crime for a provider to perform an abortion if the woman was seeking the abortion based on the sex, race, color or nationality of the fetus, or because the fetus had a developmental disability like Down syndrome.

Senate Bill 9 will make it a Class D felony for a provider to perform an abortion if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. The bill requires providers to check for a heartbeat before performing an abortion.

"I felt from a heartbeat, a child should be recognized as an individual human being," Castlen said.

Neither bill would put a criminal penalty on the woman who received the abortion.

The bill includes an exemption for physicians who perform abortions in cases of "medical emergency," such as danger of death to the woman, or "to prevent a serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

When asked if the bill will essentially ban all abortions, Castlen said some believe a heartbeat can't be detected before six to eight weeks, adding that "some say it's a little longer."

Castlen said legislators left it up to physicians to determine when a heartbeat can be detected.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said in a press release that Senate Bill 9 would block abortions "as early as six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant."

In their filing in U.S. District Court, ACLU attorneys filed their case on behalf of the EMS Women's Surgical Center in Louisville, which is the state's only abortion provider. The suit was filed against state Attorney General Andy Beshear, Adam Meier, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Service, Michael Rodman, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, and Thomas Wine, commonwealth's attorney for the 30th Judicial Circuit.

A call to Beshear's office Friday was not returned. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in January that Beshear told lawmakers Senate Bill 9 was unconstitutional.

The ACLU contends both Senate Bill 9 and House Bill 5 violate the "right to privacy guaranteed in the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution."

The attorneys also argue House Bill 5 provides doctors with no way to comply with the law.

Previously, when asked how providers were to determine the reason a woman is seeking an abortion, Prunty said the reason why might come up in conversation.

When asked if he was expecting a legal challenge, Castlen said in a message, "the ACLU claims to be for human rights. Senate Bill 9 is about human rights. Senate Bill 9 saves babies lives from being murder(ed) in its mother's womb after detection of heartbeat ... The ACLU needs to decide if they are for human rights for all or not."

Arguments against both bills will be heard together in the same case. Amber Duke, communications director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said Thursday, "because of Roe vs. Wade (the 1973 law that legalized abortion), the state can't restrict abortion pre-viability."

Viability usually occurs "around 24 weeks of pregnancy," Duke said. "... All of the abortions that happen at (the Louisville) clinic are pre-viability abortions, so we are going to be challenging (the bill) on those grounds."

The ACLU already has several challenges to Kentucky anti-abortion bills in the courts, Duke said.

Those bills are trying to shut down the Louisville clinic, Duke said.

"We have a crisis of access (to abortion) in Kentucky, even with Roe vs. Wade in place," Duke said. "It's already extremely troubling what's going on, when we have these federal protections in place."

Two other abortion bills are on their way to Bevin's desk.

Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, a Henderson Republican, requires physicians to report every time they issue a prescription for an abortion drug like RU-468 to the Vital Statistics Branch. The bill says the reports won't include identifying information about the person requesting the prescription, but says the reports shall be posted on the Vital Statistics Branch's website.

Senate Bill 50 says physicians must also provide women with information "on the potential ability ... to reverse the effects" of abortion drugs.

Duke said such claims are not scientifically proven.

House Bill 148 would outlaw abortion in Kentucky if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Duke said there is no way to challenge House Bill 148 because the bill changes nothing, and won't unless the Supreme Court overturns federal abortion law.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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