Kentucky Abortion Providers Say New Law Is A 'De Facto' Ban, File Lawsuits

Apr 14, 2022 at 3:44 pm
Operation Save America brought a large group of children to the protest at EMW Women's Clinic in 2017.
Operation Save America brought a large group of children to the protest at EMW Women's Clinic in 2017. Photo by Daniel Hosterman

After state lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of House Bill 3, which dramatically reduced access to abortions, Kentucky’s two abortion providers have launched lawsuits against the new law, which they say amounts to a “de facto” ban on abortions in the Commonwealth.

Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center, the only two abortion providers that remain in Kentucky, have asked for an injunction, saying that the law, which went into effect immediately, is impossible to comply with given new procedural and reporting requirements. Both abortion providers say they have been forced to cease operations.

“Abortion access in Kentucky is not accessible anywhere in the state at this point,” said Nicole Erwin, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, adding that the organization is currently working with patients to line up care in Indiana and other nearby states.

According to Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, its Louisville center provides 20 to 30 abortions per week.

In another lawsuit filed in federal court by the ACLU on behalf of downtown Louisville’s EMW Women’s Center, attorneys said: “Plaintiffs are forced to turn patients away today, which is causing Plaintiffs and their patients irreparable harm.”

House Bill 3, a layered, omnibus bill 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 would also significantly up 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.) The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is now required to start a complaint portal that lists all abortion providers. A March amendment to the bill bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, overriding the former law that banned abortions 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. 

“The Kentucky legislature was emboldened by a similar 15-week ban pending before the Supreme Court and other states passing abortion bans, including in Florida and Oklahoma, but this law and others like it remain unconstitutional,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We urge the court to block this law immediately and ensure that people in Kentucky can continue to access abortion care.”

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. 

On Twitter, Republican senator Rand Paul celebrated the new law, saying: “I’m proud of the Kentucky legislature for passing and standing up for this important pro-life legislation!”

Speaking at the state house on Wednesday, Democratic candidate for U.S. senate Charles Booker said the Republican supermajority was “robbing so many people of the ability to make the decisions over their bodies, over their lives.”

Keep Louisville interesting and support LEO Weekly by subscribing to our newsletter here. In return, you’ll receive news with an edge and the latest on where to eat, drink and hang out in Derby City. 

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.