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Attorney General Daniel Cameron asks court to allow enforcement of abortion bans

Protesters at an abortion rights rally in downtown Louisville following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that undercut abortion rights across the country.
Protesters at an abortion rights rally in downtown Louisville following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that undercut abortion rights across the country.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced he’s asked an appellate court to stay a decision earlier Thursday to block enforcement of two Kentucky abortion laws — including the trigger ban that went into effect almost a week ago, following the United States Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry issued the order after a hearing Wednesday. It blocks enforcement of the "trigger law" that went into effect June 24 as well as a separate six-week ban that was previously stopped in federal court.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are representing the state's only two abortion clinics. They filed the lawsuit challenging Kentucky's new restrictions on Monday, arguing abortion is allowed under the state's constitution.

Thursday afternoon, they announced they’d resume abortions Friday.

Samuel Crankshaw, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Kentucky, which represents EMW Women’s Surgical Center, said providers are still expecting to resume abortions Friday, and that they're planning a response to the attorney general's filings.

Earlier in the day, he said the plaintiffs' challenge lies with the state constitution having stronger protections for privacy than the federal constitution. He said state courts have upheld this right.

“We have a strong constitutional claim that our client should be able to continue providing abortion because Kentuckians have the right to privacy, self-determination and bodily autonomy under the state constitution,” he said.

Cameron, in his court filings Thursday, argued that Planned Parenthood and EMW are not constitutionally harmed by the laws preventing them from performing abortions, and that “the 263 sections of Kentucky’s constitution do not contain even a whiff of suggestion that abortion is constitutionally protected.”

In a motion for immediate relief, he wrote that all Judge Perry’s restraining order does is “ensure that the Commonwealth, the attorney general and the public must bear the irreparable harm and substantial miscarriage of justice to the orderly administration of the general assembly’s duly enacted laws."

“And even more importantly, the restraining order guarantees the ending of lives.”

Kentuckians will vote on a measure this November that would exclude abortion rights from the state's constitution.

That’s what those on both sides of the abortion issue are banking on in Kentucky – voting for or against codifying whether abortion rights are protected.

David Walls, executive director at The Family Foundation in Kentucky,  a group that advocates against abortion, called Judge Perry’s decision “appalling.”

“It's egregiously wrong and it's not justifiable,” he said. “The judge here has just blatantly disregarded the Commonwealth, pro-life history, pro-life laws, the will of the people through their elected officials and the Supreme Court in its recent decision to overturn Roe and return this issue to the people and their elected officials, not to judges.”

But he said even if abortions resume now, he’s hopeful that’s temporary.

“Ultimately we know that we're going to be victorious,” he said. “There is no right to an abortion in the Kentucky constitution.”

Kentucky providers Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical center halted abortions June 24. The organizations announced Thursday afternoon they would resume them the following day.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said "numerous" Kentuckians have had to unwillingly carry pregnancies or go to other states for abortion services since the ban went into effect. They responded to the ruling in an emailed statement.

"We’re glad the court recognized the devastation happening in Kentucky and decided to block the commonwealth’s cruel abortion bans," they said. "Despite this victory, we know this fight is far from over — especially with politicians like Attorney General Daniel Cameron doing everything they can to score political points at the expense of Kentuckians’ wellbeing."

Even when abortions were stopped, Planned Parenthood remained open for other health care visits, and to be a resource for people seeking abortions in other states.

“Kentuckians who are currently having to navigate this terrible medical reality, I hope that they are able to take a deep breath of relief as we start to fight back,” Tamarra Wieder, director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates of Kentucky, said early Thursday after the judge’s decision.

In a statement early Thursday, Cameron criticized Judge Perry's ruling, saying it was not based on the state's constitution and that the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the power to regulate abortions in its decision last week.

"We cannot let the same mistake that happened in Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years ago, to be made again in Kentucky,” he said, vowing to seek relief in the case.

Next week, the court will consider a temporary injunction, which if granted, would block enforcement of the laws for the duration of this case.

This story has been updated.

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

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