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Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue to block Ky. abortion law

A large banner reading "Bans off My Body" is draped over the steps at the Kentucky Capitol, as several demonstrators talk in the background.
Demonstrators at the Kentucky Capitol protested late last month against a bill restricting abortion in the state. It became law last week, but two organizations have filed documents in federal court asking judges to block it/.

Less than 24 hours after the Kentucky legislature voted to pass a sweeping anti-abortion bill into law, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU filed documents in federal court seeking to block it. 

House Bill 3, which is now law, restricts abortion medication, makes it harder for minors to get abortions and regulates disposal of fetal remains. Lawmakers also recently added language banning abortion at 15 weeks – language that mirrors the Mississippi law before the U.S. Supreme Court which could overturn Roe v. Wade this year. 

Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the bill last week, but the Republican-led legislature easily overrode that veto Wednesday. 

Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU say the law is unconstitutional, and that the added requirements – which they say are impossible to comply with immediately – make it a de facto total ban on abortion in the state.

“The Act bans abortion at 15-weeks in pregnancy, a pre-viability point in pregnancy,” the ACLU says in court documents. “The Act is also tantamount to a complete ban on abortion because it imposes new requirements on abortion providers immediately while at the same time it requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services … to create new forms and regulations for these requirements that are not yet available. This means it is impossible for plaintiffs to comply with the Act.”

The ACLU’s actions, on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, were filed Thursday as part of an ongoing 2019 case against previous legislation. 

Their latest filings include a request for a temporary injunction to block the new law and an amended complaint. 

They argue the new law goes against the Fourteenth Amendment privacy and due process rights of EMW and its patients. Heather Gatnarek, an attorney with ACLU of Kentucky, said Wednesday that the law's 15-week provision seems to be inspired by the pending U.S. Supreme Court case. 

“Politicians, including those in the Kentucky General Assembly, feel emboldened as the Supreme Court seems poised to gut or overturn Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Regardless of their extreme politics, or any laws they may pass, we know people will always need to access abortion care.”

The Planned Parenthood lawsuit was filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai’i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, which operates Planned Parenthood’s Louisville health center. 

“Every person in Kentucky deserves the right to make their own decision about their healthcare, their body and their future,” Interim CEO Rebecca Gibron said Wednesday. “HB 3 is a direct infringement on Kentuckians’ constitutional right to abortion.”

While they cannot currently legally provide abortions, Gibron said in an email that Planned Parenthood health centers in Kentucky remain open for other health care needs.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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