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Judge lifts injunction, allowing 15-week abortion ban to take effect in Kentucky

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/.

A federal judge has lifted part of her injunction against Kentucky’s omnibus abortion bill that state lawmakers passed this year. The move allows the state’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks to take effect.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings’ order on Thursday said the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last month meant there was no longer legal grounds to continue to block the 15-week ban included in House Bill 3. The order also said EMW Women’s Surgical Center, an abortion provider who’s a plaintiff in the case, did not oppose lifting that portion of the injunction.

The injunction is still in place for other parts of the law, which restricts abortion medications and makes it harder for minors to receive care.

Abortions prior to 15 weeks are legal in Kentucky, for now. 

The state’s only two providers, both in Louisville, resumed abortion services and care July 1 after Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry temporarily blocked enforcement of the state’s 2019 “trigger law” that bans nearly all abortions and a separate law that bans the procedure after six weeks.

Planned Parenthood in Louisville provides abortion care services up to 13 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, according to Nicole Erwin, communications manager for Planned Parenthood Great Northwest Hawai‘i, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky.

“Kentucky’s litany of abortion restrictions are dangerous, cruel, and just plain wrong. We are headed towards a national health care crisis,” Erwin said in a statement to WFPL News. “The Supreme Court has ended our federal constitutional right to abortion and overturned Roe v. Wade — and opened the floodgates for states like Kentucky to implement abortion bans with one goal in mind, to stop abortion access in the state completely. … We believe your body is your own. You deserve the right to control your own body, life, and future.” 

EMW Women's Surgical Center, whom the ACLU is representing in the case, had already halted abortions after 15 weeks. ACLU communications director Angela Cooper said this was done “out of an abundance of caution,” while legal challenges against the laws play out in court.

In a tweet, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said, “While we are pleased that the court allowed the 15-week prohibition on abortions to go into effect, we look forward to the day that all of its provisions are in effect.”

Cameron has remained adamant in his defense of the abortion bans, though he’s had no luck in getting higher courts to grant his request for full enforcement.

Judge Perry’s restraining order remains on the trigger law and six-week ban as a separate case moves forward in state court. A decision on whether to extend that block could come as soon as next week. 

The lawsuit states that the bans infringe on rights laid out in Kentucky’s state constitution, including the right to privacy, bodily autonomy and self-determination. 

A measure on the November ballot would, if passed, make it even more difficult for abortion rights advocates to restore access in the Commonwealth.

Voters will decide whether they support an amendment to the constitution, adding the language: “to protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

In Indiana, state lawmakers are expected to further restrict abortion access during a special session that begins July 25. It is presently legal in the state up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

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