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Panelists advocate against amendment that would solidify abortion restrictions in Ky. constitution

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.

In November, Kentuckians will vote on an amendment that would explicitly state there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.

A group of panelists discussed the amendment on Friday and urged Kentuckians to vote it down, saying it would have devastating effects.

A woman named Meredith, who only used her first name during the discussion, was among the speakers. She shared her story of how the state’s current restrictions have harmed her.

This summer, Meredith and her husband were excited to learn she was pregnant with their second child, which they’d been wanting. But soon into the pregnancy, her doctor realized something was wrong. They scheduled a second scan for a few weeks later.

“I knew right then and there to ask, ‘What do I do, what are my options? If this goes badly, what’s going to happen to me?’” she said.

Within a few weeks, Meredith was having a miscarriage. Her doctor said she had some choices.

She could have the miscarriage at home, or have a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure, to help quicken the process of removing the fetus — which had no heartbeat. They'd also prescribe medication to help with the process and prevent infection.

Meredith had the procedure, but when she went to get the medication, the pharmacy had flagged it. They wanted her to prove that she wasn’t going to use it to cause an abortion.

“To be questioned at that most vulnerable time in my life … it was just a unique kind of cruelty that no person should experience,” she said.

Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban took effect last month, after the state supreme court ruled the trigger law could be enforced as a lawsuit challenging it continues.

Dr. Caitlin Thomas, an OB-GYN and representative of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said the restrictions are already having a chilling effect on doctors giving necessary or life-saving care.

“Even when I know confidently that I am correct, practicing within whatever the legal scope is in Kentucky, there is still a lot of fear in the provider standpoint,” she said during the panel discussion.

“I know that this is right, I know that this is legal, but what if I don’t document it to the utmost ability and get three signatures and a NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] doctor and all of the stuff written on something? Will I be sued, will I be tried?”

Democratic state Rep. Nima Kulkarni hosted the panel along with Protect Kentucky Access, which advocates for residents to vote ‘no’ on the amendment in fall, and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Kulkarni said very few bills that impact health care policy are done in conjunction with the medical community.

“This constitutional amendment [and] these trigger laws have now, I think, blurred the lines between what is political and what is actually a practical and logistical consideration for physicians,” she said.

Kulkarni added that the amendment language would prevent lawmakers or courts from improving access.

“If this amendment is voted on and it passes in Kentucky, then we will not as a legislature have any further power to change those laws, to amend those laws, to revisit those laws in future sessions,” she said. “And neither will the courts.”

Representatives with Planned Parenthood and the ACLU were also part of the panel discussion.

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

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