A federal judge has issued a temporary order blocking Kentucky’s sweeping new abortion law that has forced the state’s only two providers to stop offering the procedure.
In a ruling issued Thursday, US District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings granted a request from one of the state’s two abortion providers for a temporary restraining order.
The law has put Kentucky in the national spotlight for becoming the first state to eliminate access to all abortion services.
The order comes eight days after Planned Parenthood and EMW Women’s Surgical Center individually sought emergency relief in federal court from House Bill 3, an “omnibus” abortion law with so many restrictions the clinics said it would be impossible to comply with it.
As a result, the law is “an unconstitutional ban on abortion in Kentucky,” said the lawsuit filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood, which is the suit Jennings acted upon.
The law took effect April 13 after the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Andy Beshear.
The order means Planned Parenthood and EMW, both located in Louisville, will be able to resume offering abortions. Both clinics had ceased abortion services after the law took effect.
Lawyers for EMW said allowing the law to stand would “force patients to remain pregnant against their will” and would adversely affect their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Beshear, a Democrat who supports abortion rights, vetoed the law he said is likely unconstitutional and also objected to it because it lacks an exemption for those who become pregnant because of rape or incest.
But Republicans, with super-majorities in both chambers, easily override the veto and with an emergency provision, it immediately became law.
Among its many restrictions on abortion, HB 3 outlaws sending medication by mail used to terminate an early pregnancy, despite being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. It requires the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create a new, extensive system to certify, register and monitor anyone who produces, ships or dispenses the medication.
The cabinet would enforce rules for producing and providing the medication.
It also requires the state to create an online site listing names and addresses of anyone who provides abortion medication where people can file complaints, anonymously if they choose. The cabinet would be required to investigate all complaints.
Beshear has called the new requirements for the cabinet and “unfunded mandate” and said it could cost $1 million to create and staff the oversight system called for in HB 3.
HB 3 also bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — current Kentucky law bans it after 20 weeks — and puts new restrictions on abortions for girls under 18, including those seeking permission from a judge in certain circumstances and requires fetal remains to be disposed of through cremation or burial
It also creates new reporting requirements for abortion opponents saying it would violate patient privacy.
The scramble to try to block the law is similar to that of 2019, when lawmakers passed a bill to ban abortions after six weeks and then-Gov. Matt Bevin, an anti-abortion Republican, signed it into law the same day.
That forced EMW, then the state’s only abortion provider, to cancel appointments and suspend abortions for a day until the law was blocked by a federal judge. That law remains suspended while the legal challenge is pending.
Meanwhile, abortion opponents remained focused on a Mississippi case that could curtail or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that legalized the right to abortion nationwide. A ruling is expected by June.
The Mississippi case bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy although the Supreme Court has allowed abortion to the point where a fetus is considered viable, generally around 24 weeks.
Kentucky added the provision banning abortion after 15 weeks so that the state would have a similar law in place if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law but stops short of overturning Roe v. Wade altogether.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism