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ACLU Asks Appeals Court To Reconsider Ultrasound Abortion Ruling

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Kentucky’s only abortion provider is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling in favor of the state’s new ultrasound abortion requirement earlier this year.

On behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Clinic, the American Civil Liberties Union has been suing to try and block Kentucky’s law that requires doctors to show patients an ultrasound before performing an abortion.

The ACLU argues that the 2017 measure violates doctors’ free speech rights by requiring them to describe the ultrasound even if patients demand them not to. The law has been defended by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration.

A three-judge panel on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Bevin in April, overturning a lower court ruling that had blocked it from going into effect.

Now the ACLU has requested the full appeals court reconsider their challenge, arguing that the ruling conflicts with precedent set by the Supreme Court banning compelled speech.

“Under well-settled Supreme Court precedent, heightened First Amendment scrutiny applies whenever a state conscripts a private individual to deliver such an undeniably ideological message against their will,” the motion states.

The appeals court’s 16 active-duty judges will decide whether or not to reconsider the ruling.

The ultrasound abortion law was one of the first measures to pass in 2017 after Republicans won control of the Kentucky legislature for the first time in state history.

Similar laws have passed in 14 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that monitors abortion laws. Courts have blocked the policies in two states.

In a statement, Bevin’s general counsel Steve Pitt argued that rehearing the case “is an extraordinary legal procedure, not simply a flippant opportunity for a do-over.”

"In this case, the panel majority faithfully applied the relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine that the legislation at issue is constitutional,” Pitt said.

The Kentucky legislature has passed a handful of other abortion restrictions in recent years.

Most of the measures have been blocked amid legal challenges, including a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a ban on a common first-trimester abortion procedure and a ban on doctors performing abortions if they suspect the patient is seeking the procedure because of the fetus’ race, sex or disability.

In 2017, Kentucky passed a ban on abortions after the 19th week of pregnancy. That law has not been challenged.


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