Kentucky Capitol

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would make abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is at around six weeks.

Earlier, a Senate committee forwarded Senate Bill 9 following a hearing that included passionate testimony from both sides of the hot-button issue.

On one side, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood urged lawmakers to reject the bill.

“It is important that abortion remain safe and legal procedures for Kentuckians to consider if and when they need it,” said Tamarra Wieder of Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana.

Among those on the other side was the former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, who now opposes abortion.

“Abortion can never, on its face, be safe, because in order for an abortion to be deemed successful, an individual and unique human with a beating heart must die,” Abby Johnson said.

But perhaps the most compelling testimony came from two people for whom the issue is uniquely personal.

Louisville entrepreneur Nicole Stipp decided to have an abortion in 2017.

“It didn't have a heartbeat. It didn't have a face. It didn't have feelings. It was a clump of cells and tissue,” she told lawmakers.

Texan Claire Culwell survived her mother’s attempt to abort her more than 30 years ago.

“We have names. We have faces. We have stories. We are human. We deserve to have a voice and a chance at life,” Culwell said.

Each made the case for and against a bill that would, in effect, ban abortion in Kentucky.

“And would force me to have a child when I'm not financially ready for one, and when I don't have the premium health care to bring one into this world safely,” Stipp said.

“I deserved a chance at life just like any other unborn baby with a beating heart in the womb,” Culwell added.

Another powerful moment came when April Lanham, of Philpot, Kentucky, allowed the packed room to listen as a nurse used sound technology to pick up her child’s heartbeat.

“I believe that the heartbeat is the most powerful sound in the world,” she told WDRB News. “Every life matters.”

The committee passed the bill 10-2 with Louisville Democrats Perry Clark and Denise Harper Angel voting against it.

“Ultimately, this decision on whether to terminate, to choose adoption, to end the pregnancy, to go forward with the pregnancy belongs to the woman,” Clark said.

Most of the crowd broke into applause following the vote, but the ACLU called the bill unconstitutional and said it will file suit if SB 9 becomes law.

“Our team of attorneys are very confident in our ability to file a legal challenge, successful legal challenge against this law,” said Kate Miller of the ACLU of Kentucky.

Republican Sen. Matt Castlen, the bill’s sponsor, expressed confidence the courts will uphold it.

“If it gets sued and litigated against, I think it stands a really good chance of surviving at this time,” he said.

Late Thursday afternoon, the full Senate passed the bill 31-6. It now goes to the House.

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.