Candidates wrangle over abortion policy in Kentucky gubernatorial debate

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron accused each other of taking extreme stands on abortion policy Monday night as they wrangled over an issue that’s become a flashpoint in their hotly contested campaign for governor in Kentucky.

During an hourlong debate at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky, the rivals fielded questions over education, taxes, public safety and the monthlong strike by auto workers. Some of their sharpest exchanges during the televised debate, however, came when asked to lay out their stands on abortion.

Their remarks, which took place about three weeks before the Nov. 7 election, came against the backdrop of Kentucky’s current law, which bans all abortions except when carried out to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent a disabling injury.

Beshear said that his challenger celebrated the abortion ban’s passage and pointed to Cameron’s long-running support for the law as written, without exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

“My opponent’s position would give a rapist more rights than their victim,” Beshear said. “It is wrong. We need to change this law. We need to make sure that those individuals have that option.”

Once Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state’s trigger law — passed in 2019 — took effect to ban nearly all abortions.

Cameron reiterated Monday night that he would sign a bill adding abortion exceptions if given the chance, a position he revealed during a radio interview last month.

Cameron went on the attack by pointing to Beshear’s opposition to abortion restrictions passed by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature. As attorney general, Beshear refused to defend a law imposing a 20-week ban on abortion, and later as governor he vetoed a 15-week ban, Cameron said.

“That is Andy Beshear’s record on the issue of life,” Cameron said. “It’s one of failure for the unborn.”

Beshear responded that he has consistently supported “reasonable restrictions,” especially on late-term abortions. Beshear also noted that the 15-week ban lacked exceptions for rape and incest.

Abortion polices have been at the forefront of the campaign. Beshear’s campaign released a TV ad last month featuring a Kentucky woman who revealed her own childhood trauma while calling for rape and incest exceptions. The woman, now in her early 20s, talked about having been raped by her stepfather when she was 12 years old. She became pregnant as a seventh grader but eventually miscarried.

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