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Judge to extend temporary block on Ky. abortion ban

From left to right, David Walls, director at The Family Foundation, Ky. Republican Rep. Nancy Tate and Addia Wuchner, director at Kentucky Right to Life, speak to media outside a federal courthouse in Louisville Monday.
Kentucky Republican Rep. Nancy Tate, center, speaks with media following a federal hearing in Louisville related to House Bill 3, a new abortion law Tate sponsored. She was joined by David Walls, director at The Family Foundation (left) and Addia Wucher, director at Kentucky Right to Life.

A federal judge says she’ll extend a temporary restraining order blocking a recently passed abortion law in Kentucky. 

The law restricts abortion medication, makes it harder for minors to get abortions and bans abortion at 15 weeks. 

It became law April 13, as soon as the GOP-led legislature voted to override Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the measure. 

Planned Parenthood Great Northwest, Hawai'i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky and the ACLU, on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, took legal action right away and are now part of the same federal lawsuit. 

They say the law is, in effect, a total ban, because certain parts, like new forms and reporting requirements and regulations from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, aren’t yet in place. 

Attorneys for the state’s two abortion providers, along with the Kentucky attorney general’s office, argued for more than three hours Monday on whether the providers can comply without penalty. 

“Many portions of the law simply are impossible to comply with because forms, regulations, programs that the state is required to adopt simply have not been adopted,” Planned Parenthood attorney Julie Murray said following the hearing. “They don't exist.”

The ACLU also broached the constitutionality of the 15-week ban, with attorney Brigitte Amiri saying protections against pre-viability abortion bans have been upheld by “decades of Supreme Court precedent.”

Planned Parenthood has provided abortions up to 13 weeks and six days at its Louisville health center and EMW has provided them up to 21 weeks and six days. 

Just before 3 p.m, District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings announced she would extend the temporary restraining order that’s set to expire this week. 

However, while her first order issued almost two weeks ago was a ban on the entire bill, this extended order will be modified to allow for some things that both parties have agreed the plaintiffs can comply with now. 

Bill sponsor Republican Representative Nancy Tate of Brandenburg was at the hearing in Louisville. She said she’s glad the 72-page bill was being looked at so closely, saying the process could help solidify compliance if it’s allowed to stand. 

“I’m very optimistic that with this level of scrutiny, that this will encourage and actually require the Cabinet [for Health and Family Services] to respond to this bill,” she said. 

She was joined by Kentucky Right to Life Director Addia Wuchner and David Walls, Director at The Family Foundation. 

Tate has said throughout the bill’s process that the particular law isn’t about ending abortion in the state, but making it safer while it’s legal. 

Wuchner said the bill is about protecting people at the beginning of life, while also supporting women’s health. 

The judge said she needs more information from both sides before she decides whether to grant a temporary injunction in the case, which could further block the bill. 

“Both sides have been unable to answer some questions,” Grady Jennings said. 

Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a statement that he believes the law should take effect even as it’s being challenged in court. 

“Because this important law protects both the health and safety of women and unborn life, we asked the judge to deny Planned Parenthood’s and EMW’s motions against it,” Cameron said in a statement.

Murray, one of Planned Parenthood’s attorneys, said she’s glad abortion services are available in Kentucky in the meantime. 

”We are open for patients who are in need of abortions and other care,” she said. “And hope to keep it that way going forward.”




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