Americans United for Life | Kentucky 2014 Report Card
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Kentucky 2014 Report Card

Ranking: 18

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Kentucky has laid the groundwork for more aggressive efforts to protect women and their unborn children through its informed consent law, parental involvement law, and abortion clinic regulations. It also provides legal recognition and protection for unborn children in its homicide laws and protects the freedom of conscience of some healthcare providers. However, life-affirming laws are still needed to advance the goals of the Women’s Protection Project and in the areas of human cloning and destructive embryo research.


  • Kentucky’s legislature has declared its opposition to abortion, stating that if the U.S. Constitution is amended or certain judicial decisions are reversed or modified, the legal recognition and protection of the lives of all human beings “regardless of their degree of biological development shall be fully restored.”
  • Under Kentucky law, a physician may not perform an abortion until at least 24 hours after a woman has received information about the probable gestational age of her unborn child, the nature and risks of the proposed abortion procedure, alternatives to abortion, and the medical risks of carrying the pregnancy to term.  She must also be told that state-prepared materials are available for her review, that medical assistance may be available, and that the father is liable for child support even if he offered to pay for the abortion.
  • A physician may not perform an abortion on an unemancipated minor under the age of 18 without the written consent of one parent, unless there is a medical emergency or a court order is issued.
  • Kentucky requires abortion clinics to meet licensing requirements and minimum health and safety standards, including maintaining written policies and procedures, conducting appropriate patient testing, ensuring proper staffing, maintaining necessary equipment and medication, and providing medically appropriate post-operative care.
  • Kentucky limits the performance of abortions to licensed physicians and all abortion providers must maintain hospital admitting privileges.
  • Kentucky has an enforceable abortion reporting law, but does not require the reporting of information to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  The measure pertains to both surgical and nonsurgical abortions.
  • The state follows the federal standard for Medicaid funding for abortions, only permitting the use of federal or state matching Medicaid funds for abortions necessary to preserve the life of the woman or when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
  • Kentucky otherwise prohibits the use of public funds for abortions unless necessary to save the life of the mother.
  • Kentucky restricts the use of some or all state facilities for the performance of abortion.
  • Kentucky prohibits school districts from operating a family resource center or a youth services center that provides abortion counseling or makes referrals to a healthcare facility for the purpose of seeking an abortion.
  • Hospitals with emergency room services may not counsel victims of reported sexual offenses on abortion.
  • All private health insurance contracts, plans, and policies must exclude coverage for abortion unless the procedure is necessary to preserve the woman’s life.  Also, the state prohibits insurance coverage of abortions for public employees.
  • Kentucky also prohibits insurance coverage of abortions for public employees.
  • The state offers “Choose Life” license plates, the proceeds of which benefit pregnancy resource centers and/or other organizations providing abortion alternatives.

Legal Recognition and Protection of Unborn and Newly Born:

  • The definition of “person” for purposes of Kentucky homicide laws includes “an unborn child from the moment of conception.”
  • Kentucky allows a parent or other relative to bring a wrongful death (civil) lawsuit when a viable unborn child is killed through the negligent or criminal act of another.
  • Kentucky has enacted a “Baby Moses” law, under which a mother or legal guardian who is unable to care for a newborn infant may anonymously and safely leave the infant in the care of a responsible person at a hospital, police station, fire station, or other prescribed location.
  • Healthcare professionals must test newborns for prenatal drug exposure when there is suspicion of maternal drug abuse.
  • Kentucky allocated $1.4 million for substance abuse prevention and treatment for pregnant women.

Bioethics Laws:

  • Kentucky maintains no laws regarding human cloning, destructive embryo research, or human egg harvesting, nor does it promote ethical alternatives to such destructive re­search.
  • The state does not fully prohibit fetal experimentation, instead prohibiting only the sale or use of a live or viable aborted child.
  • Kentucky does not regulate assisted reproductive technologies.

End of Life Laws:

  • In Kentucky, assisting a suicide is a felony.

Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Laws:

Participation in Abortion:

  • A physician, nurse, hospital staff member, or hospital employee who objects in writing and on religious, moral, or professional grounds is not required to participate in an abor­tion. Kentucky law also protects medical and nursing students.
  • Private healthcare facilities and hospitals are not required to permit the performance of abortions if such performance violates the stated policy of that facility.

Participation in Research Harmful to Human Life:

  • Kentucky currently provides no protection for the rights of healthcare providers who conscientiously object to participation in human cloning, destructive embryo research, or other forms of immoral medical research.

What Happened in 2013:

  • Kentucky considered legislation prohibiting abortion at 5 months (i.e., 20 weeks), prohibiting abortion when an unborn child has a heartbeat, regulating abortion clinics, delineating the qualifications for individual abortion providers, adopting an ultrasound requirement, and limiting insurance coverage of abortion.
  • Kentucky enacted continuing medical education requirements for pain management and palliative care. It also considered comprehensive conscience protections for healthcare providers.

Recommendations for Kentucky

Women’s Protection Project Priorities:

  • Women’s Health Defense Act (5-month abortion limitation)
  • Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act
  • Parental Involvement Enhancement Act
  • Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act
  • Child Protection Act

Additional Priorities:

  • Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act
  • Women’s Ultrasound Right to Know Act
  • Defunding the Abortion Industry and Advancing Women’s Health Act
  • Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act
  • Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act
  • Joint Resolution Commending Pregnancy Resource Centers
Legal Recognition and Protection for the Unborn:
  • Unborn Wrongful Death Act (for pre-viable child
  • Born-Alive Infant Protection Act
  • Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act
  • Human Cloning Prohibition Act
  • Destructive Embryo Research Act
  • Prohibition on Public Funding of Human Cloning and Destructive Embryo Research Act

Healthcare Freedom of Conscience:

  • Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act
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