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Federal judge extends ban on enforcing Kentucky’s new abortion law

The ruling means abortion services remain available in the state for now.
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A federal judge in Kentucky issued an order Thursday extending a prohibition on enforcing provisions of a new state law that abortion providers say amounts to a total ban on the procedure.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings twice before issued short-term orders blocking enforcement while seeking answers to how parts of the 72-page statute would work. Thursday’s order imposed a preliminary injunction that will remain in force while the case is litigated, unless the state succeeds in challenging it on appeal.

The judge's ruling means abortion services remain available in the state for now.

The state law would ban abortion after 15 weeks except when necessary to prevent death of the pregnant woman or major injury. It also would impose new record keeping and reporting requirements on abortion providers and outlaw mailing medications used to induce early abortions.

Jennings said the law’s restrictions “are an undue burden to women seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus” and violate the constitutional due process rights of women.

Image: Abortion rights Kentucky
Activist demonstrate during a national day of protest in support of abortion rights in Louisville, Ky, on May 14, 2022.Leandro Lozada / AFP - Getty Images

In a lawsuit challenging the law, Planned Parenthood said the state made reporting details of each abortion procedure mandatory but failed to immediately provide the necessary forms, making compliance impossible. The group also said the amount of personal information required could make it possible to determine the identity and medical history of abortion patients.

Kentucky’s Republican-controlled legislature passed the law in March. It was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, and the legislature then voted to override his veto. The law took effect April 13, but the judge temporarily blocked enforcement on April 21 and renewed her temporary order May 4.

The state’s attorney general, Daniel Cameron, said the law provides “much-needed regulatory reforms on abortion practices in Kentucky.” The Republican AG said Planned Parenthood was wrong to argue that providers were required to comply with the law’s detailed reporting requirements before the state printed the necessary forms.

The Supreme Court is now considering whether a Mississippi law that would ban abortion after 15 weeks is constitutional, a case that could result in a ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and follow-on decisions that prevent states from banning abortion before the age of fetal viability, about 23 weeks into a pregnancy.

A leaked copy of a first draft of the court’s opinion in that case, written by Justice Samuel Alito, was published by Politico earlier this month. It called for overturning Roe and declaring that the Constitution provides no right to abortion. If that is the court’s ultimate decision, states would be free to ban abortion.

Kentucky is one of 13 states that have laws already on the books to ban abortion if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe.