Democratic candidates stake out stances on abortion

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Democrats Andy Beshear and Adam Edelen touted their abortion-rights credentials, while Rocky Adkins expressed his anti-abortion credentials as the Kentucky gubernatorial candidates reached out to voters in a televised debate Tuesday night.

The three also defended teacher sickouts that forced some school districts to cancel classes as teachers rallied against pension, budget and education measures before the state’s Republican-dominated legislature. They fielded questions on a range of issues including Medicaid expansion and the state’s pension woes in the hourlong debate, which comes three weeks before the state’s May 21 primary election.

The state’s Republican-dominated legislature has passed and GOP Gov. Matt Bevin has signed a series of bills since 2017 to restrict abortion. The most restrictive of the measures would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is generally about the sixth week of pregnancy. The law, enacted this year, drew a quick legal challenge and a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to block its enforcement pending a trial.

Edelen, a former state auditor, depicted those abortion measures as “an experiment by the radical right,” and he said Kentucky has become “ground zero” in the fight for abortion rights.

“To build a modern Kentucky, you have to recognize the full equality of women,” Edelen said. “And you can’t recognize the full equality of women unless you respect them enough to let them make their own health-care decisions.”

Beshear labeled himself “pro-choice” and said he supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. As attorney general, he said, he refused to defend abortion measures that drew legal challenges because he considered them unconstitutional.

Taking aim at Bevin, Beshear predicted the Republican incumbent will stress his anti-abortion stance in the general election.

“He’s going to try to talk about this as much as he can because he knows he can’t get reelected on his own record,” Beshear said.

Adkins, a longtime state lawmaker, noted that his abortion stance reflects the views of his constituents in his rural district.

“I am pro-life and you express the views of your constituents that you represent in the legislature through your votes,” he said.

He said his position on the issue extends to supporting preschool funding and making it easier for people to adopt or become foster parents.

The other Democrat running for governor is frequent candidate Geoff Young. Bevin’s GOP challengers in the primary are state Rep. Robert Goforth, William Woods and Ike Lawrence.

Kentucky is among three states electing governors in 2019. The others are Louisiana and Mississippi.