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Judge ends key lawsuit against Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban

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A judge officially dismissed a major lawsuit against Kentucky's abortion ban this week. But a similar challenge may be filed in the future.

A judge has officially dismissed a major lawsuit that aimed to overturn Kentucky’s trigger law — which outlaws practically all abortions — as well as the state’s ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry issued the order Tuesday. His decision came after the plaintiffs, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Kentucky, formally asked to drop the case last week.

Their reason for bowing out stemmed from a February decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The court’s justices ruled abortion providers — specifically, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women's Surgical Center in Louisville — lack the necessary legal standing to challenge the ban on behalf of their patients.

The ACLU represented EMW in the case, which began last summer right after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and eliminated a nationwide right to abortion.

That allowed Kentucky to outlaw abortion unless there’s a life-threatening health risk to the pregnant patient.

The Kentucky case’s dismissal is welcome news to anti-abortion activists.

Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life, celebrated the plaintiffs’ move to drop their lawsuit in a statement last week.

“Today, every word of every pro-life law is intact,” she said.

But just because this lawsuit is over doesn’t mean a similar challenge couldn’t move forward in the future.

A pregnant patient still can sue directly to try to overturn the state’s ban. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood expressed interest in representing any patients who are willing to pursue a legal challenge.

“We are considering all avenues on how to fight this,” said Tamarra Wieder, the Kentucky state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates.

She told LPM News her organization intends to eventually mount another lawsuit.

A separate case challenging Kentucky’s abortion laws remains ongoing.

Three Jewish women in Louisville filed it last fall. They claim the restrictions violate their religious freedom and are overly vague. Their lawsuit also says the women avoided pursuing new pregnancies after abortion was outlawed.

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

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