Protest at Kentucky Capitol defends right to abortion

By Kaitlin Estill
January 25, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Supporters of women’s rights protested at the state Capitol here Jan. 5. The rally for reproductive rights was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky.

The action targeted two bills in the Kentucky legislature, which reconvened that day. “One of them gives power to the attorney general of Kentucky to open up frivolous lawsuits against the remaining clinics we have in Kentucky,” Jackie McGranahan, from the Reproductive Freedom Project for ACLU Kentucky, told the Militant. 

This bill, House Bill 2, would separate regulation of clinics that provide abortions from all other health care facilities. It would remove these clinics from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which licenses and regulates all health care, day care and many other facilities, and turn them over to the state attorney general. Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has said that if the bill passes he intends to shut down these clinics that provide abortion in the interests of treating coronavirus. 

Because of previous attacks there are only two clinics in the state where abortion is available, both located in Louisville. It’s a long trip to them from the more rural eastern part of the state. 

Senate Bill 9 would require medical personnel “to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant” during a “failed abortion.” However, the bill’s sponsor admits that there is no evidence whatsoever that such a situation has ever happened or is likely to happen. “This is a bill based on inflammatory rhetoric and false claims,” the ACLU said in a letter to legislators, “and has nothing to do with how abortion care actually works.”  

These two bills had been combined into one bill by the legislature last year and passed, but was vetoed by the governor.

“No government should be so powerful they can force someone to stay pregnant against their will, and certainly not a government that cannot even ensure a person will survive their pregnancy,” Heather Ayer, campaign coordinator of the ACLU Kentucky, told rally participants. “The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world and that rate has been increasing for decades. We are actually more likely to die in pregnancy than our parents were.” 

“It’s really good to see a public protest being organized around this question,” Socialist Workers Party member Samir Hazboun told McGranahan and other protesters. “The inspiring fight that was waged and won in Argentina shows a broad movement can be built to win advancements for women’s rights.

“What impressed me about how they organized it in Argentina is they reached out broadly, to factory workers and unions,” he said. “And we believe it’s possible to build that kind of movement in this country.” 

McGranahan told Hazboun and this Militant  worker-correspondent that she thought an obstacle to building a broad movement around a women’s right to family planning, including abortion, is the fact that the word abortion is so stigmatized. “You can barely say the word abortion, there’s such a culture of shame around it,” she said. 

The Socialist Workers party talks to workers on their doorsteps all across the country, including about a women’s right to decide if and when she has a child, and we’ve found there is a lot of openness to discussing this, I said. “Actually I had a discussion about this and today’s protest with two of my co-workers at Walmart.”