Beshear calls on legislature to add exceptions to Kentucky abortion ban, fund teacher raises
FRANKFORT — The day after winning a second term, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear spoke of several changes he would like to see from the General Assembly — including educator raises and exceptions to Kentucky’s abortion law in cases of rape and incest.
Beshear, flanked by First Lady Britainy Beshear, Lt. Gov Jacqueline Coleman and First Dog Winnie in the Capitol Rotunda, told reporters Wednesday that the state’s near-total abortion ban was “the most extreme.” It automatically went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
The governor referred to Hadley Duvall, a woman who appeared in one of his campaign ads criticizing Republican opponent Attorney General Daniel Cameron for his stance on abortion. Duvall was raped by her stepfather as a child and became pregnant and later miscarried. Beshear thanked her in his election night speech for speaking out.
“What a brave, courageous young woman that she is,” Beshear said Wednesday. “We believe she and everyone else should have options, and the legislature should make that change as quickly as they come in.”
Beshear added that he believes Kentuckians have shown that they oppose the abortion ban, or “at the very least, they want to see exceptions.” On the campaign trail, Beshear has expressed support for exceptions in cases of rape and incest. After Beshear’s campaign released ads critical of Cameron’s stance, the Republican said he would have signed similar exceptions into law if the General Assembly passed them.
The General Assembly convenes in Frankfort in January. During the session this year, Majority House Whip Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Middletown, proposed a bill adding exceptions in cases of rape and incest to Kentucky’s abortion law. However, that legislation was never heard in committee.
Nemes said Tuesday night that lawmakers need to look at polling and how the issue impacted the election. He added that he’s also spoken with other Republicans about it, but the issue is difficult for both sides.
“It’s unquestionable that it is life. And so then what do you do with that? … Obviously, when people have been raped, and which is obviously what we’re talking about, it’s a very dramatic situation,” Nemes said. “So, where do you draw the line? What’s the balancing scale? People are going to have to come up with their own positions on that.
“I think our people, though, are clear in what they believe,” Nemes said.. “I think our people believe in the exemptions. And at some point, we’re representatives of the people, and we have to do what their demands are.”
Kentucky voters have also spoken directly on the issue of abortion. Last fall, anti-abortion constitutional amendment failed, which would have enshrined no abortion access in the state constitution.
Beshear’s legislative priorities
Beshear previously called on the General Assembly to fund an 11% raise for public school employees and universal pre-kindergarten programs for Kentucky students in the next state budget. He’s made similar pleas in the past, but hasn’t gotten much support from the legislature’s Republican supermajority.
He renewed his call in Wednesday’s news conference, saying the raises “are absolutely critical for moving our state forward.”
When asked about how he moves forward with the General Assembly over his next term, Beshear extolled bipartisanship and said he’s signed more than 620 of the General Assembly’s bills already. Some of that legislation included legalizing medical marijuana and sports betting in Kentucky.
“This is our chance to not only pay teachers closer to what they’re worth, but to boost the economy in each and every one of these areas, and listen, our shortage looks like it’s going to be even worse,” the governor said, before adding that recent raises for state troopers, social workers and corrections officers have brought more employees into those professions.
Ahead of the press conference, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, congratulated Beshear on his win in a Wednesday morning statement, but expressed disappointment in the outcome. He added that the General Assembly will continue to focus on passing its policies while bringing “forth legislation to protect Kentucky families from some of the extreme agendas of the Beshear and Biden administrations.”
“I am hopeful that in his second term, though, the Governor will choose to work collaboratively with his co-equal branch of government,” Stivers said. “This General Assembly remains committed to a fiscally responsible budget and creating an environment for economic growth.”
When asked about Stivers’ comment and negative reaction from other Republican lawmakers to their relationship with the governor, Beshear said he hoped that in the future people will no longer see the “outward bickering.” Beshear added he meets with legislators regularly and recalled but did not name a legislator who once said they never met with the governor after just having a meeting together.
Beshear said his administration will “double our efforts” to work with the General Assembly.
“Now the phone works both ways. We need to make sure that everyone is reaching out. And listen, I’m not going to respond to the negative. I mean, when somebody is yelling and you yell back, and there’s just two people yelling,” Beshear said. “My goal is to try to continue to be an adult, to continue to operate in a way that makes people proud and hopefully allows people’s children to watch what we say and what we do.”