Court of Appeals declines to reinstate ban on Kentucky heartbeat law

Published 8:23 am Friday, August 26, 2022


Two laws that restrict abortion access in Kentucky will remain in effect for now, according to a state Supreme Court ruling Thursday.

Kentucky’s top court denied the EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Dr. Ernest Marshall and Planned Parenthood its motion to reinstate bans on the state’s “heartbeat law,” which prohibits abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, and the state’s “Human Life Protection Act,” which precludes anyone from causing or aiding an abortion unless the mother’s health is at “substantial risk” of death or serious impairment to a life-sustaining organ.

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A Jefferson Circuit judge had issued temporary orders against those laws June 30, less than a week after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

Earlier this month, the Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned the injunctions.

While the Supreme Court agreed to hear whether the injunction should be reinstated, it declined to overturn the appellate court’s action. Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said in the ruling the plaintiffs in the case failed to demonstrate “extraordinary cause” in their motion for relief.

In a statement, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization put the issue of abortion within the state’s jurisdiction. He said he was pleased with the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision Thursday.

“So that the promises of Dobbs may be realized, and to avoid being embroiled in another 50 years of political acrimony, courts around the country, and here at home, must allow our policy makers in the General Assembly to speak for the people they represent,” he said.

Oral arguments before the state Supreme Court will take place on Nov. 15 in Frankfort. That’s one week after a proposed constitutional amendment saying there’s no “right to abortion” goes before Kentucky voters in the general election.

“The citizens of this Commonwealth will have an opportunity to embrace or reject an amendment to our Constitution bearing directly on many of the issues in the underlying circuit court action,” Justice Michelle M. Keller wrote in a concurring opinion. “We look forward to that expression of the will of the Commonwealth.”

Regardless of how the Kentucky Supreme Court rules on the injunction, the full case remains in Jefferson Circuit Court.

In a joint statement, the Planned Parenthood Federation, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Kentucky, which represents the surgical center and the local Planned Parenthood chapter in the lawsuit, said the justices’ ruling Thursday jeopardizes the health of nearly 1 million Kentuckians.

“Abortion is not only health care but also a critical individual freedom,” the statement read. “Make no mistake: abortion bans result in tragic health outcomes and are a form of control over our bodies. Despite this setback, the fight continues. We will proceed with our case to restore and protect reproductive freedom in Kentucky. Politicians and the government should never have the authority to force a person to remain pregnant against their will.”