While pro-life activists nationwide are wondering if their support for Brett Kavanaugh was betrayed in his first Supreme Court ruling, legislative efforts on new restrictions are coming soon in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere.
A proposed Kentucky law its sponsor calls “the most pro-life piece of legislation that has ever been filed in the Kentucky Legislature” would make abortion a felony if performed after the heartbeat of the unborn child can be detected.
The bill was proposed by state Rep. Robert Goforth, a Republican from East Bernstadt. It will join other pieces of legislation being proposed for the 2019 session of the Kentucky legislature, which begins on Jan. 8.
The law would require an abortion provider to check for a fetal heartbeat before ending a woman’s pregnancy. A baby’s heart begins beating roughly six weeks after conception.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, two similar bills are headed to Republican Gov. John Kasich’s desk, where he may choose to sign — or veto — one, both or neither.
House Bill 258, dubbed the “heartbeat bill,” would ban abortions when doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. Opponents to this kind of bill argue that it would prohibit abortions before many women even realize they are pregnant.
Kasich himself has reportedly said he will veto the bill, as he did in 2016. But Republican governor-elect Mike DeWine, who takes office January 14, has suggested that he would sign it if such a bill were to land on his desk.
Kavanaugh has only been on the bench for two months, but a controversial decision announced last week has abortion opponents starting to worry that he may not be the ally on the high court that they expected.
The court announced that it would not review two lower court decisions that temporarily banned Louisiana and Kansas from cutting Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding. While three of the court’s conservatives voted to take up the cases, Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts declined to join them, ensuring the cases would not receive the necessary four votes for review.
The question the cases presented was not about the legality of abortion, but instead over whether individuals have a right to challenge a state’s determination that a Medicaid provider is “qualified.”
But opponents of abortion are already sounding alarm bells, frustrated that President Donald Trump’s second nominee to the court declined his first opportunity to hear a case that could have ramifications for America’s largest provider of abortion services.
“I think people are upset. They are upset and it’s understandable,” said Travis Weber, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit and activist group.
Weber said his group was not holding Kavanaugh’s decision against him, because while the decision was “not the greatest result,” it was largely procedural. Though some suspect that Kavanaugh’s vote was designed to deflect criticism from the left after a brutal confirmation process, Weber said that at this point it was impossible to know for sure.
“If that’s what he’s doing here, that’s a big problem,” Weber said. “We don’t know that.”
Abe Hamilton, a public policy analyst for the American Family Association and its general counsel, said that the group’s early concerns about Kavanaugh were “not assuaged” by Monday’s decision.
Hamilton said in a statement that “it is unfortunate that neither Roberts nor Kavanaugh could bring themselves to make what in any other context would have been a slam dunk to grant certiorari.”