Federal judge strikes down Ky. abortion law

by Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today , posted Thursday, September 28, 2017 (20 days ago)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- A Kentucky law requiring doctors who conduct abortions to display and describe a patient's ultrasound as well as play the fetal heartbeat to the pregnant woman violates the First Amendment rights of those physicians, a federal judge said.

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U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled late Wednesday (Sept. 27) in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge to the law by the state's only abortion provider, EMW Women's Surgical Center, and bans the state from enforcing it.

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper said the governor was disappointed in the ruling and would immediately appeal it. She said the administration is confident in the constitutionality of law. Similar laws in other states have been upheld and struck down by various courts.

William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, called the ruling

"a vindication of the rights of Kentuckians and their physicians.” He noted the ruling “marks a significant victory against the General Assembly's overreach into the area of reproductive healthcare."

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, voiced his disagreement with the ruling by saying "Judge Hale and the ACLU have brought injustice rather than justice to expectant mothers and their unborn children."

Attorney Steve Pitt, the general counsel for Gov. Matt Bevin, talks to reporters outside the courthouse after a trial earlier this month. A federal judge struck down a Kentucky abortion law on Wednesday.
Photo by Robin Cornetet/Kentucky Today
"Rather than ensuring a mother is fully informed about the abortion procedure, its risks and consequences, they use wild claims about the First Amendment to shroud the slaughter of sons and daughters," Chitwood said. "Not only is abortion the only legal form of murder in the U.S., it is an immensely serious medical procedure with significant risks.... Judge Hale and these liberal lawyers want the surgery to be regulated as if it were no more complicated than a doctor's visit for a sore throat."

Earlier this year, the state attempted to shut down EMW Women's Surgical Center, the last abortion clinic in Kentucky, saying it lacked proper agreements with a hospital and ambulance service. The ACLU and a Kentucky law firm sued, arguing that the state was targeting abortion providers for medically unnecessary regulation. Another federal judge blocked the attempt to close the clinic. The trial was held earlier this month.

The ACLU said in a statement that the court recognized the law "appears to inflict psychological harm on abortion patients," and causes them to "experience distress as a result."

Kentucky, which had 17 abortion providers in 1978, was trying to become the only state in the nation without an abortion clinic. Besides Kentucky, six other states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming and West Virginia -- have only one such clinic.

Between 900,000 and 1 million babies die each year in the United States at the hands of physicians performing abortions. Between 3,000 and 3,500 of those children are killed in Kentucky alone every year.

Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today, www.kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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