‘Hadley’s Law’: Abortion exception bill introduced

Published 1:40 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024

When Hadley Duvall shared her story in a Gov. Andy Beshear campaign ad during the governor’s race, it garnered a lot of attention.

In the ad, Duvall, a 21-year-old from Owensboro, said that after years of sexual abuse, she became pregnant with the baby of her stepfather.

“I’m speaking out because women and girls need to have options,” she said. “Daniel Cameron would give us none.”

The ad elevated the conversation about abortion exceptions in the race, and some point to it as a key component of Beshear’s win over Cameron.

Tuesday, Hadley appeared beside State Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, as he introduced Hadley’s Law, a bill that would add limited abortion exceptions if passed.

Currently, Kentucky has a near-total abortion ban, thanks to a trigger law that set the ban into place as soon as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Its only exception is to protect the life of the mother. Yates said that exception is “so narrowly written, so ambiguous, that it’s almost nonexistent.”

What’s in Hadley’s Law?

According to a bill draft, Hadley’s Law would add exceptions for rape, incest, nonviable pregnancies and the health of the mother.

Nonviable pregnancies include situations where an unborn baby would not survive after birth, like ectopic pregnancies, incomplete miscarriages or dead fetuses.

The health of the mother includes situations in which an abortion is necessary to “preserve the life of the pregnant woman or to avoid a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

To qualify for the rape and incest exceptions, patients would have to gain the “good-faith belief” of a physician that that is what caused their pregnancy.

The fetus must also not have reached viability, defined in the bill as the point at which an unborn child could survive outside of the womb, either naturally or with the assistance of life-supporting systems.  

What did supporters say about the bill?

Beshear showed up at the beginning of the press conference to express his “total support” for Hadley’s Law, and said he would sign it immediately if it reaches his desk.

“Hadley is a representative of so many other Kentuckians that we might not know about, but we know that they exist and we know that they are suffering,” he said.

Duvall said that while it took her a while to find her voice, now that she has, she isn’t going to stop using it. She said her story helps people who haven’t experienced her trauma and don’t know anyone personally who has to understand the stakes.

“It’s hard to really paint the picture in your head that this is a reality for many people, and by putting my face with it just allowed them to see that I could have been anybody’s daughter, I could have been anybody’s sister, anybody’s niece or granddaughter,” she said.

“ … I’m not a what if. It happened.”

Yates said that this bill is not a “fix-all,” but rather a “very small step in the right direction for a very limited number of victims.”

He added that he created narrow exceptions in Hadley’s Law because those give it the best odds of passing in a supermajority Republican legislature.

What are the bill’s chance of passing?

Yates said that he thinks Hadley’s Law has a chance of passing.

He said that since the last vote on abortion exceptions, in a proposed amendment to the state’s current abortion can, he thinks some Republicans have changed their minds.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said that the bill will be assigned to a committee on Kentucky Education Television Monday night.

He did not dismiss the possibility of passage, but said that it’s a difficult choice.

“There is a lot of discussion,” Stivers said. “I do not know what the outcome will be.”

House Speaker David Osbourne, R-Prospect, echoed Stivers’ remarks.

“We’ve yet to reach consensus on what what we’re capable of doing as a caucus moving forward, but we’re going to continue to have those conversations,” he said.