Kentucky’s Abortion Providers Able To Resume Operations After Judge Blocks ‘De Facto’ Ban

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Kentucky’s new layered and restrictive abortion law, which the state’s two abortion providers call a “de facto” ban.

Last week, Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only two abortion providers that remain in Kentucky, ceased operations and launched lawsuits against the new law House Bill 3, which went into effect immediately after state lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the piece of legislation.

The clinics shut down because they said it was impossible to comply with the new law given the new procedural and reporting requirements. 

The temporary order blocking the law means the Commonwealth’s  providers, both of which are both located in Louisville, will be able to resume offering abortions.

“We’re grateful for the temporary restraining order restricting this egregious abortion ban from continuing to block a constitutionally protected right to basic care,” said Rebecca Gibron, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Northwest. “This is a win, but it is only the first step. We’re prepared to fight for our patients’ right to basic health in court and to continue doing everything in our power in ensure abortion access is permanently secured in Kentucky.” 

House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Tate (R-Brandenburg), amended state law to make it harder for minors to get abortions in cases when a parent is not able or qualified to provide written consent, as well as restricted access to abortion medication. It requires that fetal remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. It also significantly upped the reporting and eligibility requirements for abortion medication providers. (In their lawsuits, abortion providers said that numerous new forms required by the law are unavailable, making it impossible to comply with the law.) Under the law, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will be required to start a complaint portal that lists all abortion providers. A March amendment to the bill bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, instead of after 20 weeks of pregnancy — similar to a controversial and legally-contested Mississippi law that’s currently being weighed by the Supreme Court. 

Several other states, such as Florida and Arizona, have mirrored the legislation that challenges Roe v Wade, as lawmakers on the state level wait for possible changes to national abortion rights. 

Lawmakers also voted down an amendment on the Senate Floor that would have exempted patients in cases of rape or incest from the new criteria.    

In his veto, Gov. Beshear wrote: “House Bill 3 contains no exceptions or exclusions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Under House Bill 3, a 12-year-old child who is raped and impregnated by her father would not have the option of a procedure without both the consent of her mother and without also notifying her rapist — her father — at least 48 hours prior to obtaining a procedure or by petitioning a circuit or district court for a hearing where this violated and hurt child would be judged.”

“Furthermore, House Bill 3 is likely unconstitutional,” Beshear added. 

Shorty after the federal judge blocked the new law on Thursday, Kentucky Senate Democratic Leader Morgan McGarvey — who is also running for U.S. Congress — sent out a statement celebrating the action.

“Today, a Federal Judge granted a temporary hold on the enforcement of House Bill 3, an unconstitutional bill passed by the General Assembly that effectively ended abortion services in Kentucky, even for victims of rape and incest,” he said. “I’m glad the judicial branch has halted the enactment of this bill and not automatically allowed the Kentucky legislature to revoke a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive choice.”

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