Stivers says Senate GOP will decide soon whether to change abortion ban

Senate president says ‘hard to tell’ if voters wanted exceptions for rape and incest

By: - December 1, 2022 12:33 pm

Robert Stivers, Kentucky Senate president
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers

This article is published with permission from the Northern Kentucky Tribune, a nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism.

“It’s hard to tell” if Kentucky voters’ decision last month against a constitutional amendment to eliminate abortion rights from the state Constitution means the people want abortion allowed in cases involving rape and incest, the head of the Kentucky Senate said Wednesday.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers was asked about implications of the controversial amendment’s defeat at a news conference at the Hotel Covington with other Senate GOP leaders and members in conjunction with their retreat before the 2023 General Assembly begins in January.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said his majority caucus will discuss the issue.

“This is something we have not gotten together as a caucus (to discuss) since the elections,” Stivers said in response to a question about possible abortion legislation in the upcoming legislative session..

Stivers said the 31 members of the caucus “have our personal opinions” on the issue and emphasized that the decision on whether to deal with abortion legislation in 2023 will be made by the caucus.

“It’s a little premature to ask us, but here in a few days, we’ll let you know,” he said.

Asked specifically if lawmakers will allow abortions in cases like rape and incest, Stivers said, “It’s hard to tell if the voters wanted exceptions.” He went on to say that question was not on the ballot.

The question on the Nov. 8 ballot asked if voters wanted to say there is no right to an abortion under the state Constitution.

Due to a so-called trigger law, Kentucky banned abortion immediately after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, a decision that ended the federal right to an abortion. The trigger law provided exceptions for life-threatening health risks to the mother but not for rape or incest.

The EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville and Planned Parenthood, which performed abortions before they were prohibited, challenged the trigger law in court

The Kentucky Supreme Court now is pondering whether to reinstate an earlier injunction against the trigger law and a law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. An injunction, which would allow the resumption of abortions in Kentucky, would be in effect until the state courts reach a final decision on the constitutionality of the laws.

The state’s highest court held a hearing Nov.15 on the injunction issue and a decision is expected any time.

On another subject Wednesday, Stivers said the 2023 legislature will take a look at how constitutional amendments are presented to the voters.

He noted that the Supreme Court has said the entire amendment has to be published on the ballot.

“We are going to have to go back and re-evaluate the whole process,” he said. Constitutional Amendment 1, which also was defeated in November, contained more than 700 words on the ballot.  It would have given the legislature authority to call itself into session, a power now only the governor holds.

Senate budget chairman Chris McDaniel of Ryland Heights said it is sad that Northern Kentucky University is having financial problems. The university has reported a deficit of more than $24 million.

“We’re going to keep an eye on what they have going over there,” he said, adding that the university has not asked for more money from the legislature.

Joining Senate GOP leadership at Wednesday’s news conference were two newly elected members to the Senate – Shelley Funke Frommeyer in the 24th District and Gex Williams in the 20th District.

The caucus met earlier Wednesday with Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, CTI chief executive officer Tim Schroeder, Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette and representatives from Blue North, which supports entrepreneurs throughout Northern Kentucky by hosting and sponsoring a variety of programs.


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Jack Brammer
Jack Brammer

Jack Brammer, a native of Maysville, has been a news reporter in Kentucky since 1976. He worked two years for The Sentinel-News in Shelbyville and then from 1978 to 2021 in the Lexington Herald-Leader's Frankfort bureau. After retiring in December 2021 from the Herald-Leader, he became a freelance writer for various publications. Brammer has a Master's degree in communications from the University of Kentucky and is a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.