Thursday night, Senate Bill 4 passed the Kentucky House 92-3. This legislation requires women to talk to a professional about her options before she has an abortion. Here are four takeaways:
First, political change takes time. The last time the Democratic-controlled House passed any new pro-life legislation the iPhone had not been introduced and few people had heard of Barack Obama. It’s been more than a decade, despite the fact that Kentucky’s Senate has sent pro-life legislation to the House year after year.
The women’s suffrage movement began before the Civil War, but the 19th amendment was not ratified until 1920. The atrocity of slavery was debated at the Constitutional Conventions in the late 18th century, but it took a war and several decades to end the barbaric practice.
In a world of instant-everything, political patience is hard to muster. But those committed to the pro-life cause must have it.
Second, pro-life progress is partial. This is a half-step forward in the march for life. SB 4 does not prohibit abortions; it just gives women more information before the abortion in the hope this information will save some lives.
SB 4 isn’t everything, but it’s something. And the version the House passed, which has a provision that informed consent could happen through a video conference, is a slightly weaker version than the Senate passed.
I was discussing a different piece of legislation with a Kentucky senator recently, and he advised, “If you come to Frankfort wanting everything, you’ll get nothing.”
Sadly, this is true. Social conservatives need to learn how to rejoice in partial victories. An all or nothing strategy won’t work.
Third, states can pass meaningful pro-life legislation. While the Supreme Court told states it cannot prohibit all abortions, states can regulate them. States can require that women be informed of other options before an abortion, as with SB 4. States can require that minors seek their parents’ approval, or that parents are at least notified.
States also can require that there be a waiting period, an ultrasound or counseling prior to the procedure. They can work to make sure funding doesn’t go to agencies that perform abortions, and state lawmakers can pass legislation against fetal homicide, recognizing the civil rights of an unborn child, and prohibit certain types of partial birth abortions.
Everything does not rise or fall on the next presidential election or the resulting Supreme Court appointees.
Fourth, politicians feel the need to court social conservatives. The timing of SB 4 is no coincidence. The state is five weeks away from a special election that places Democratic control of the House in the balance. A GOP sweep would create a 50-50 tie giving Republicans a huge opportunity to take control this November.
The House felt the need to pass something conservative because it has realized that a lot of Kentucky voters are socially conservative. Supporting the pro-life movement often is seen as a principled stand a politician will make despite the consequences he or she may face. But not now, and not here. This year in Kentucky politics, being pro-life is a winning position.
What a powerful reminder for believers not to disengage from the political process. Yes, it can be frustrating and confusing, but you might meet a kid in a few years who was not aborted because a sufficient number of socially conservative voters let their voices be heard.
Rick Hardison is pastor of Great Crossings Baptist Church in Scott County.