Judge blocks Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban temporarily

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FILE – Community members gather to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Kentucky’s trigger law to ban abortion, at Circus Square Park in Bowling Green, Ky., on Saturday, June 25, 2022. A judge cleared the way Thursday, June 30, 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. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — 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 overturning 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 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.

“We’re glad the court recognized the devastation happening in Kentucky and decided to block the commonwealth’s cruel abortion bans,” leaders from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU said in a joint statement Thursday. “Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe last Friday, numerous Kentuckians have been forced to carry pregnancies against their will or flee their home state in search of essential care.

Despite this victory, we know this fight is far from over.”

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the ruling. Cameron, a Republican, has defended the state’s abortion laws.

The Kentucky case reflects the battles being waged in courthouses around the country over whether pregnancies may be lawfully ended.

Attorneys for the Kentucky clinics argued the state’s constitution protects the right to an abortion. 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 at six weeks of pregnancy.

The judge on Thursday also agreed to temporarily block the six-week ban. That measure was previously halted by a federal court.

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. Kentuckians will vote in November 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.

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