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UPDATE: New lawsuit argues Ky. abortion bans violate religious freedom

Abortion protests Kentucky
Abortion rights protesters in downtown Louisville on May 4, 2022.

Three Louisville residents have filed a lawsuit in state court arguing Kentucky’s abortion restrictions violate their reproductive and religious freedom rights.

Plaintiffs Lisa Sobel, Jessica Kalb and Sarah Baron practice Judaism and do not believe life begins at conception. Two of them have also used in vitro fertilization to become pregnant. They worry the laws could impact their future reproductive decisions.

The lawsuit challenges the state’s trigger law, which bans abortion in nearly all cases, and six-week ban. The plaintiffs are also asking the court to strike down language in state statute defining that life begins at conception.

Attorneys say the laws are vague and violate Kentucky’s constitution and the state’s religious freedom law.

Daniel Grossberg is a Democratic candidate for Kentucky House District 30, which includes parts of Louisville. He said during a news conference Thursday that the laws are an affront to personal liberty.

“These laws are not based upon long-standing, widely held Judeo-Christian values, which for thousands of years held that life begins at birth,” he said. “They are instead based upon a very political interpretation that now imposes itself on other faith systems.”

Kalb, one of the plaintiffs, conceived her child after undergoing in vitro fertilization. Because of the current laws, she says it seems too risky to try for other children with her remaining embryos, which are frozen.

As someone who faces issues with fertility, Kalb said she’s already likely to have complications with pregnancy.

She worries the laws mean she may have to carry an unviable pregnancy to term or be prosecuted for murder if she chooses to destroy her remaining frozen embryos.

“I think we need to acknowledge the trauma of forcing a woman to go through a pregnancy and then know she's going to come home with empty arms,” Kalb said. “It's dangerous to the women who are going through it, and it's extremely cruel.”

Plaintiff Sobel also worries if physicians could act in time, based on the laws, if she was facing a life-threatening situation with a pregnancy.

“Kentucky’s abortion laws are cruel and must be overturned,” she said.

Attorneys Aaron Kemper and Benjamin Potash, who are representing the plaintiffs, said they anticipate a response from Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who has fought to implement abortion restrictions.

The attorneys said that in researching and drafting the religious freedom law complaints, they drew from previous COVID-related complaints that Cameron supported.

The abortion bans were previously blocked in state court. Enforcement resumed in August, as litigation continues.

This story was updated.

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