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Judge upholds blocks to enforcement of Ky. trigger ban, 6-week ban on abortion

Protesters at an abortion rights rally in downtown Louisville following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Protesters at an abortion rights rally in downtown Louisville following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade.

A Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge has granted a temporary injunction further blocking enforcement of two of Kentucky’s most restrictive abortion laws. Abortions are currently available for patients who are up to 15 weeks pregnant.

Judge Mitch Perry’s injunction extends a restraining order he granted last month.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed the case in state court in late June, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade. The ruling set in motion the state’s trigger law, which bans abortion in all but life-threatening cases. The plaintiffs challenged both the trigger ban and a six-week ban. 

Kentucky’s two abortion providers, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, halted care for a week following the June 24 Supreme Court ruling. They resumed after Perry issued his original restraining order. 

Judge Perry's ruling Friday came two weeks after he heard from four witnessesduring a hearing and days after the deadline for parties to file additional information in the case.

In a statement, the ACLU, ACLU of Kentucky and Planned Parenthood applauded the judge’s ruling. 

“No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will or flee the state to access essential health care," the groups said in the joint statement. "Kentuckians have a right to abortion under the state constitution, and we’ll continue fighting for that right so that every person in the commonwealth can get the care they need.”

Plaintiffs have argued that abortions are safe and necessary health care that are protected under the state’s constitution, citing right to privacy. They also say restrictions will mean patients have to either travel out of state or be forced to carry pregnancies to term, which could lead to negative health and life outcomes. 

This is, in part, why the injunction was granted. Perry stated in his order Friday that there is a “substantial likelihood that these laws violate the rights to privacy and self-determination” under the state constitution.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron has argued there is no such protection in the constitution, which doesn’t explicitly mention abortion. 

Following the judge’s temporary block in late June, Cameron unsuccessfully petitioned the Kentucky Court of Appeals and state supreme court to enforce the laws.

David Walls, director at The Family Foundation of Kentucky, called the judge’s decision on Friday “appalling” and “”unjustified.”

“Judge Perry’s suggestion that the Kentucky Constitution somehow secretly contains a right to terminate the life and stop the beating heart of an unborn human being, despite Kentucky’s clear 150-year pro-life history, is absolutely absurd,” Walls said in a statement.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine also filed an amicus brief Monday on behalf of abortion providers.

It states that abortion is “an essential part of comprehensive health care” and that “when abortion is legal, it is safe.” 

The brief continues that laws that criminalize abortion “are not based in medical or scientific rationale” and that they threaten patients’ health and safety, interfere with doctor-patient relationships and disproportionately affect marginalized populations. 

Judge Perry said earlier this month amicus briefs would likely not have a bearing on decisions at this stage of the case. 

EMW, which previously provided abortions up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy, recently started capping them at 15 weeks. An attorney said that was done in anticipation of a federal judge allowing enforcement of the state’s 15-week ban, which was granted last week.

Kentucky voters will decide in November on a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would add the language, “Nothing in the state constitution creates a right to abortion or requires government funding for abortion.”

This story has been updated.

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

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