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Federal Judge Blocks Kentucky Anti-Abortion Law

A federal judge has blocked a Kentucky law requiring a doctor performing an abortion to conduct an ultrasound.

The General Assembly approved the law in January. It also requires a doctor to show and describe an ultrasound to a patient and to play audio of the fetal heartbeat.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge David Hale came Wednesday night. It cited concerns over psychological harm caused by the law’s requirement to show and describe ultrasound images to women seeking abortions.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville.

In a news release, the ACLU praised the decision.

“We are pleased that Kentucky women will no longer be subjected to this demeaning and degrading invasion into their personal health care decisions," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. "This ruling puts us one step closer to getting Kentucky politicians out of the exam room."

During oral arguments in the case in March, attorney Steve Pitt, who represents the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in the suit, argued that the law ensured women would be as informed as possible before making the decision to have an abortion.

Amanda Stamper, a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin, said the administration would appeal the decision.

"We are disappointed in the Court's ruling and will appeal immediately to the 6th Circuit," Stamper said in an emailed statement. "We are confident the constitutionality of HB2 will be upheld, as similar laws have been in both the 5th and 8th Circuits."

Bevin also signed a law this year banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

This story has been updated to add comment from the governor's office.