Kentucky wants to ban the safest way to abort second-trimester pregnancies

Doctors who perform "dilation and evacuation" abortions would face a felony charge and up to 5 years in prison.

Kentucky lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Tuesday in favor of passing a bill to criminalize performing a common abortion method after 11 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, which sailed through the state House of Representatives with a 75-13 vote, would ban abortions performed using a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E), except in cases of medical emergencies. Since it passed the state Senate earlier this month, it only needs Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature in order to become law. D&Es, which involve removing a fetus using suction and surgical tools, are generally seen as the safest way to end a second-trimester pregnancy and are by far the most common method used to do so. About 16 percent of Kentucky abortions are performed using the procedure, Reuters reported.

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But under the bill, doctors who perform D&Es on pregnancies older than 11 weeks would face a class D felony charge and up to five years in prison.

Read: 10 states are trying to ban this common abortion method but courts stand in the way

While several states have sought to ban D&Es, court challenges have blocked such bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky’s Advocacy Director Kate Miller told the Courier Journal. Abortion rights advocates argue that D&E bans essentially amount to bans on second-trimester abortions, which they say would be unconstitutional.

State Rep. Addia Wuchner, who sponsored the legislation, told lawmakers that Kentucky’s law could withstand such legal challenges.

Read: These 7 states have one abortion clinic left

"While there is no doubt that I am pro-life, this is not a total ban on abortion in the commonwealth after 11 weeks, but a prohibition of a procedure that is gruesome … and not necessary because women would have other methods available," she told a state House committee during a hearing on the bill in early March.

A spokesperson for Bevin’s office didn’t immediately return a VICE News request for comment, but the Republican is widely expected to sign the bill. One of his priorities for Kentucky is “pro-life legislation,” according to his official website, and Reuters reported that Bevin has described himself as “100 percent pro-life.”

Cover image: The EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville is the last abortion clinic in the state of Kentucky. Stacie Scott for VICE News