A judge cleared the way Thursday for abortions to resume in Kentucky, temporarily blocking the state’s near-total ban on the procedure that was triggered by the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Abortion-rights groups fought for the ruling that pauses the 2019 Kentucky law for now. Under the so-called trigger provisions, abortions ended abruptly June 24 once the nation’s highest court ruled to end Roe’s 1973 federal constitutional protections for abortions.
Since that momentous decision, nearly 200 women with scheduled appointments have been turned away from EMW Women’s Surgical Center, one of the two Louisville abortion clinics, according to Heather Gatnarek, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
The Kentucky case reflects the battles now being waged in courthouses around the country over whether pregnancies may be lawfully ended.
Attorneys for the clinics argued Kentucky’s constitution protects the right to an abortion. In defending the state law, Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s legal team says no such constitutional right exists. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Mitch Perry heard arguments from both sides in a Louisville courtroom on Wednesday before issuing his order.
In Kentucky, a lawsuit filed this week on behalf of the abortion clinics claims women were being “forced to remain pregnant against their will” in violation of the state’s constitution. The suit asked the judge to temporarily block the “trigger law” along with another Kentucky law that attempted to prevent abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The six-week ban was previously blocked by a federal court. But the lawsuit said it’s anticipated that the injunction preventing its enforcement will be dissolved in light of the Supreme Court decision.
The trigger measure contains a narrow exception allowing a physician to perform a procedure necessary to prevent the death or permanent injury of a pregnant woman. It does not permit abortions in cases of rape or incest.
The request to continue abortion services in Kentucky — through intervention by state courts — could turn into a stopgap effort. In November, Kentuckians will vote on a ballot initiative that, if ratified, would establish that no state constitutional right to abortion exists. Both sides of the abortion debate are busy organizing ahead of the election.